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SQA Higher Maths exam 2015: Pass mark for the controversial Scottish paper ‘considerably reduced’ to 34%, SQA reveals

The controversial new Higher Maths exam which sent Scottish students into a frenzy online for being ‘too difficult’ had its pass mark considerably reduced, it has been revealed.

Pupils needed almost 34 per cent to achieve a C-grade and 60 per cent for an A, according to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Last year, a pass mark of 45 per cent was required for a C in Higher Maths.

Pupils from across the country took to Twitter in May to complain the new SQA paper’s format – which was presented to S4 pupils for the first time this year – was too difficult and near-impossible to pass.

An online petition was signed by teachers, pupils, and parents from across the nation, calling on the Scottish Government to intervene in what was being referred to as a ‘flawed exam’.

Then yesterday – on the day almost 150,000 pupils received their SQA exam results – the exam board admitted on its website the new assessment “proved to be more demanding than intended” and that the grade boundaries were reduced.

The educational body also added this ensured candidates received the grades they deserved and said: “For instance, if a candidate receiving a C last year were to have sat the exam this year, they would also have achieved a C.”

Despite politicians applauding record pass rates from students, Scottish Labour took a different stance on the controversy.

Acting Leader and Shadow Education Secretary Iain Gray called for a full review of the problems with the Higher Maths exam to prevent the same issues being repeated next year.

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In an online statement, Mr Gray said Scottish students had been “vindicated” – but expressed his worry over the drastic reduction on last year.

He said: “It’s true that pass-marks are adjusted each year, but it’s extraordinary to see this drop to just 33.8 per cent.

“The Highers are the gold standard of Scottish education and this is a big concern.”

Pointing the finger at the SNP government, Mr Gray said the party had been “crowing” over the last few days that there was no problem with the Maths exam – only for the exams authority to say it was too hard.

Scottish Labour added the SNP government’s introduction of charges for exam appeals favours private school pupils over those at a state school.

Mr Gray added: “We know that the appeals charges introduced by the SNP government have put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage. It’s not fair and they should be reversed.

“All pupils who didn’t get the results they hoped for should have a fair shot at an appeal, no matter what school they go to or how much money their parents have.”


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