20 May 2016

Mr Stargazer and his Exams...

Previously, I wrote of two things. First there was my essay on the EU referendum; that I have published, and it seems to have garnered some attention. But secondly, I spoke of my exams, my interview, and my writing. This relatively brief update will address these.


I have had two exams thus far: AS math (Core 1) and AS philosophy (a three hour exam). I felt well prepared for both, but the C1 paper was the most difficult C1 exam I’ve ever seen—all of my colleagues agreed, and many were borderline hysterical. The Internet is full of ire. This video, although liberal with the profanity, is nonetheless an excellent satire:

How well have I done? Obviously, I can’t be sure. I completed all the questions. I got answers for all but one. I think I did reasonably well; with the likely exception of the last question, and the 3-mark question on gradient algebra (which I have never seen on a C1 paper) I think I did well.

The last question was unfortunately worth 10% of the paper. I may have gotten the right answer, or I may not have. However: the question was rock hard. Everyone agreed. Many others got no answer at all. I can at least reasonably hope that OCR will lower the grade boundaries—if not, then universities will be able to see that everyone has unusually low maths grades.

As for the philosophy? I have done a lot of preparation for it, and I think it was preparation well served. The day before I revised the most little known and obscure parts of the syllabus with my teacher. (Example: Leibniz and direct realism.) I’m glad to say the 15-marker on the epistemology course was, surprise surprise, on direct realism.

I personally think I did well on that philosophy exam. In fact, I would honestly be shocked if I didn’t get an A.

However, most of the other students who did the exam thought it was fairly difficult. And it was: like the exam last year, the wonderful people from AQA took the most little known and minor parts of the (very substantial) syllabus and asked very specific questions on them. For example: the book for AS philosophy is a large volume totalling close to 400 pages. Leibniz’s direct realism gets a paragraph.

Our teacher taught us and made us revise extensively Berkeley’s idealism, and the indirect realism of Hume, Descartes, Locke, and much more. He made us write essays on criticising indirect realism from an idealist perspective, and vice versa. I do not believe we did anything on Leibniz’s direct realism—perhaps because it’s so unconvincing.

Anyway: exams so far have been alright. But the trends that have been set are disturbing. The exam boards don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes; on the contrary: they’re accelerating their mistakes. The exams are becoming increasingly difficult compared to the exams that came before them—and marking is increasingly losing credibility, as students are marked on topics they have very little knowledge and teaching of. How well you do depends increasingly on chance; the size of the syllabi and the the specificity of the questions, combined with the fact that for these two exams there was literally no way to prepare (I’ve never seen C1 questions like that) ensures that.

My Interview with Amsterdam

Today I was interviewed for my application to Amsterdam university. I believe it went well (but of course I cannot be certain). Apparently, I have an A on my application file; this means I have a high chance of being admitted.

The tutor whom I talked with seemed quite amused. I don’t quite know what to make of that.

The interview was mostly about the course; we discussed what I wanted to do, the way the course was structured, and the workload involved. I thought the course was a good match for me, although I get the impression that a lot of work will be involved...

There is also this to consider:


Now finally: about my writing.

Obviously, I still have exams; the next one is on Wednesday, and it is maths C2 (I wonder what that will be like). Nonetheless, I shall use this afternoon of opportunity to do some more work with my editor.

Speaking of which: my editor has gotten back to me with an assessment of the book! She has also made a number of comments inline. I have already read through them; today I will re-read them, and formulate an action plan. Then I will go over it with the editor. After the exams, I will put words into action.

Very well! Onto work...

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