A British State-directed Physics paper for intelligent 16-year-olds

UPDATE2:- It’s no use merely moaning and whingeing as I am doing here. Even by bringing this more to people’s attention, we can change little in a hurry. The State has not only taken Nazi ownership of our children, but has also intellectually cast them adrift at the same time, and it’s all probably deliberate.

The remedy is to live with them in a houseful of books, use the said books liberally in front of them while making sure that these are text books about real stuff and not pretentiously awful Booker-novels, and discuss with them scientific discoveries and the history of same at mealtimes.

UPDATE1:- From Driver Rob, this is fine stuff and I agree totally. I also use “old” O-level (remember that?) text books to support A2-students of 18 in maths, and “old” GCSE science ones from the 80s and the pre-Blair-90s in general, to cover random GcSE/AS/A2 work from the ages of 15-19.

David Davis

I thought I’d already done this but must have left the page-from before publishing it.


Here’s the mark scheme:-


0 thoughts on “A British State-directed Physics paper for intelligent 16-year-olds

  1. “You may use a calculator”

    I couldn’t find any actual calculations, other than the one for efficiency of the TV set… and they give you the equation for that!

    Unbelievable. I knew things were bad. Didn’t realise they were this bad. Next year’s paper-

    1.A student notes that 1000 joules per second of pure sunlight radiate from Barack Obama’s arse.

    [One watt = one joule per second]

    How many watts of sunshine does she measure radiating from Barack Obama’s arse?

    2. All modern technology except solar panels is evil. How evil is a television?

    1. Quite evil

    2. Very evil.

    3. Televisions should be banned.

    4. Back to the caves, children! Back to the caves!

  2. Prizes for everyone, just give out the certificates at Tescos and save everyone the effort of going to school. The savings in unburnt petrol and other fossil fuels would be so welcome along with a few less trees chopped down for exam papers.

    Perhaps school exam papers should be delivered on rolls centered about carboard tubes so that they are at least loo ready.

  3. I thought you lot would like that. I will publish some more as soon as I can hack the “2” and “3” series off the boards’ websites (or you clever geeks can do it.)

    In the “further” physics papers (only for the really bright people doing what is called “separate” sciences, transformers make an appearance. They are called “step-up” and “step-down” transformers, and are for not wasting energy in the “Grid”.

    You are not expected to know the transformer equations, not any of them, as they are not taught now. They are not “in the syllabus”.

    Most students will start to look anxiously at you as if you have gone off the rails, if you begin to try to teach something that is “not in the syllabus”. The response “do I have to know that?” is frequent.

    There is a lot more global warming stuff in the subsequent papers.

    Work to do with forces and motion involves syaing whether the reaction times and stopping distances of a car depend on the driver being drunk or on drugs, or not.

  4. GCE Ordinary Level
    Biology one
    Thursday 25 June 1981. 2 hours

    (a) Make a large labelled diagram to show the the internal structure of the mammalian eye. [12]

    b) Name four parts of the eye through which light rays pass, and briefly give the function of each. [4]

    c) Briefly distinguish between rods and cones. [4]

    The difference? I couldn’t pass my O level biology now (well maybe just), but would easily pass that facile, politicised nonsense you’ve linked to.

    But just before it’s 100% clear-cut, the last question was:

    (a) Describe some of the basic observations and deductions that led to the Darwinian theory of evolution. [10]

    (b) What fossil evidence is there to suggest that evolution has occurred? [10]

    Some would see this as pushing an agenda, albeit the scientifically rational one.

    (a) Deduce the age of Dave H. On second thoughts, don’t bother. [0]

  5. Ian, that is entirely correct.

    Passing this, is what those who will go on to do “A” levels in the sciences will have to do.

    This is what has gone from the GCSE syllabus:-

    F = ma (they are given the equation to do any sum)
    All the balistics equations (they went some years ago but after 1997)
    v = u + at
    s = ut + 1/2(at2)
    v2 = u2 + 2as
    resolving the velocity of a projectile in vertical and horizontal directions
    all vector resolution whatever
    Q = CV (no capacitors now)
    delta_Q = M.c.delta_T (no heat calcs)
    no transformer calcs
    no motor calcs
    no flemings left hand rule
    no magnetism except basic qualitative
    no force/charge calcs
    no electric fields
    no radioactivity except the dangers thereof

    I could add more

  6. To pedant:

    I don’t know. It has sort of crept in the last year or so. I thought like you do that these people were supposed to hate America, but they adopt its spelling of “sulfur”.

  7. Dave:

    I find this almost unbelievable!

    You cannot DO physics unless you understand Newtonian (Classical) Mechanics.

    It’s impossible to do physics if you cannot grasp Dimensional Analysis, on terms of L(ength); M(ass); and T(ime).

    It’s impossible to do Science without iderstanding Scientific Method, and how to use it.

    And it’s impossible to discover how best to reach the truth without a knowledge of epistemology.

    Do you you think that ANY of your kids are taught ANY of this???

    Ferinstance: Do any of them know that it’s mathematicakky possible to derive Maxwell’s equations from Classical Mechanics, with electric and magnetic force fields propagating at ‘c’ relative to the field-propagator? Leigh Page showd this in 1912/1913… No need for the ‘Luminiferous Aether” theory.

    The entirety of Geometric Optics can be derived from Classical Mechanics…

    The ‘particle’ (Ballistic) Theory of Light can replace all the silly ideas about ‘mass-less’ photons. Pair-Production and Annihilation demonstrates this.

    The Ersatz-‘Science’ page is so silly and boring and in desparate straits that I no longer bother to read it:

    [ FX: “Here Are Six Impossible Things (to accept before breakfast).” ]

    Whereas their Technology page is often worth looking at. At least we can test the technology…


  8. I guess that this is what happens when the science agenda is determined by politix gradyerts.

    No wonder they want people to work ’til they’re 80. Any kid now is only going to be ‘qualified’ to work in Dixons.

    I guess this is how you keep the global warming scam going; make sure people are too dumb to realise that they’re being fleeced for green taxes.

    It would take a leader of great courage and moral fibre to admit what has happened in the last 10-20 years and FIX IT. Pity we’ve got Gorgon.

    Should I expect to hear any announcements from the Tories?

    I’d like to vote FOR someone. At the moment I’m left wondering whether to vote BNP as a vote against all politicians (no, I’m not a racist, I’m just sick of spineless spin merchant politicians). I suppose that the problem is that if enough people despair and vote for them, they could get in. I’m not keen on that either.

    I didn’t realise at the time how much I’d rather DD had been elected leader of the Tories. CallMeDave looks like another policy-free Bliar / Obama clone lite. Why is he scared of standing for anything.

  9. To Tony: you say…….

    “You cannot DO physics unless you understand Newtonian (Classical) Mechanics.

    It’s impossible to do physics if you cannot grasp Dimensional Analysis, on terms of L(ength); M(ass); and T(ime).

    It’s impossible to do Science without iderstanding Scientific Method, and how to use it.

    And it’s impossible to discover how best to reach the truth without a knowledge of epistemology.

    Do you you think that ANY of your kids are taught ANY of this???

    Ferinstance: Do any of them know that it’s mathematicakky possible to derive Maxwell’s equations from Classical Mechanics, with electric and magnetic force fields propagating at ‘c’ relative to the field-propagator? Leigh Page showd this in 1912/1913… No need for the ‘Luminiferous Aether” theory.

    The entirety of Geometric Optics can be derived from Classical Mechanics…”

    Yup I know that. Now, having seen what it is that any science teacher has to “deliver”, _IF_ the “national curriculum” is being followed (which it must be or you’d get suspended) you can understand how very, very hard I have found it to teach the “new syllabus”.

    With the very smart kids, you can go off-track.

    (And there are some) with whom (one-2-one) you can conspire to tear up the syllabus and teach what you and they want to know, such as Newtonian Mechanics ( and for a treat, I give them Dimensional Analysis (remember that?) and they absolutely LOVE it.) After that, and a bit of basic electricity and electric amd mag fields, and the sums, the rest is plain sailing. Then, you don’t even have to tell them what to say in answer to the State-Vulgate-questions: they just know.

    The trouble is the majority: they struggle to understand the proper stuff (above) when you try it, and find it frightening, since their maths grounding has been grubbed up by Ed Balls, Tony Blair and John Major. So I can’t go that route: I just have to teach them the Vulgate “by rote”, which is I thought what the whole new GCSE stuff was about _NOT_ doing!

    For the ones who are really _not_ very smart, and there are some too, they are now completely put off the whole idea of what they are rpesented as “science”. to them it is “boring”, (as they say)

    _’coz it just IS_

    (well, because it is, as you also now see.)

    I was assured by an exam board officer (whom I must not name) about a year ago, that the “syllabuses” we have now are

    __”designed to be delivered against the objective of modern-day-relevance to today’s scientific and social issues, and additionally by teachers with skill-areas lying outside the traditional sciences.”__

    I rest my case.

  10. Is this a joke?

    I loathed physics and ditched it just as soon as I could (something I regret today, having subsequently struggled through A Brief History of Time and Cosmos), preferring a largely arts-based O level syllabus.

    I’d have sailed through this though. I must be a genius.

    Where do I sign up for my professorship at Imperial College?

  11. ‘Sulfur’ is the American spelling.

    As we’re part of the US Empire, it’s not too surprising.. The spell-chuckers probly ‘correct’ from ‘sulphur’ to ‘sulfur’ without evening bothering to ask…

    [ FX: “America may be an Empire; bit it’s the first Empire in history that pays you to belong to it.” — General William Odom, formerly Director of America’s National Security Agency ]



  12. Pingback: A collection of thoughts « bella gerens

  13. Note that this is *not* supposed to be the equivalent of an O-level paper.

    The ‘further’ section (which isn’t for “the really bright people”, but rather is the only way of getting higher than a C-grade), is taken by a higher percentage of the population than took O-levels. Almost all kids taking any A-levels at all, and absolutely all kids who will take science at A-level, do the ‘further’ paper.

    So any dumbed-down-ness complaints should solely be focused on p14-29. Which mostly read like decent questions on energy and electricity for brightish 16-year-olds (with the exception of 4D, which seems to be primarily a test of the student’s cynicism level).

    (personal disclosure: maths & physics A-levels from 15ish years ago, non-science degree)

  14. Oh, and sulfur is the correct spelling of that element’s name in all scientific contexts, whether you’re writing in US English, British English, or French.

    It has been the IUPAC international standard name since 1990 and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s standard name since 1992.

    (similarly, all science papers published in the US will spell aluminium and caesium thusly, as those are the IUPAC names.)

  15. Oh! My! God!

    I had the priviledge to attend a grammar school and this is the sort of stuff we would learn in the lower school (first to third years). Having seen all three “science” papers is it any wonder that this country needs to import doctors?

    It certainly explains why so many people, including the media, swallow the AGW alarmists BS mantra hook, line and sinker.

    It’s not just us is it? There seems to be a global pandemic of ignorance. Everyone who gainsays the alarmists are considered mentally defective. I shall wear my Mental Denialist badge with pride.

  16. I apologise: I had forgotten that “sulfur” is the defined IUPAC spelling.

    I do not agree with a lot of what’s in IUPAC, especially how the benzene ring is specified: it makes it harder to draw reaction-mechanisms.

  17. Pingback: Banditry » Blog Archive » Dumbing down, and that’s just the fogeyish commentators

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  19. To The Remittance Man:

    Dear Sir, pleased to meet you at last! No, I think it’s something else.

    It’s that since the maths papers were being gutted of even moderate algebra content at that same time (equations with more than one letter or non-numeric symbol in each were thought to be too hard for the poor people) and “algebra” did not fit in with Blair’s “New Britain, a Young Country!” corporate image for New Labour and “21st century skills”, they took them out.

    I have, and teach informally sometimes from, GCSE revision texts pre-1997 which contain this stuff, in the _first chapter_ about mechanics (the word “mechanics” does not appear any more in GCSE at all.)

    Your point about shootings is taken. They may occur for one of two reasons. Either they are staged by governments with an agenda to push, or they are the result of boring syllabuses which engage nobody, and actively corrupt a few. In either case the State is at fault.

  20. Is it just me or is question 8 totally screwed?

    The “experimental results” seem to suggest that micro-bore pipe loses heat at a lower rate than large-bore pipe. The marking scheme awards you a point for saying this (question 8C), so the paper is internally consistent….but entirely at odds with the real-world result.

    You can derive the real-world result without doing the experiment too:

    Making the assumption that the experiment is any good whatsoever and the pipes are made of the same thickness and type of copper (I’m not aware of any different types, but just for the sake of rigour).

    The question becomes how is energy (heat) lost through the system? Since it’s sealed we can reasonably limit this to conduction through the pipe walls. Since the walls of each pipe are the same copper of set thickness we can assume that the rate of conduction through a unit area of these walls is the same.

    The rate of energy loss is therefore proportional to the area of the walls of the pipe; the energy is transmitted through a unit area of the walls at a set rate, so the more wall the higher the rate you lose energy.

    The energy within the pipe is proportional to the temperature of the water and the mass (volume) of water in the pipe.

    So the question has reduced to one of surface area to volume ratios.

    The amount of energy is proportional to volume (given by pi*r^2*l, where r= radius of pipe and l is length), the rate that energy is lost is proportional to the area of the walls (given by pi*2r*l). Cancelling out shows that surface to volume ratio is given by 2/r.

    Rate of energy loss is thus maximised by minimising r and as such is faster in micro-bore pipes!

    This is also the result that anyone with any practical knowledge of heating systems knows – when you want to maximise heat-flow through a pipe, such as in a boiler, it’s thin pipe that’s used.

    I don’t know how/why this question got through – a thinking student seeing those experimental results could waste precious time trying to make sense of it, or it could shake their understanding for later questions….or they might even just assume a mistake has been made with the labelling, say that large-bore pipes are better and lose a mark!

    If “dumbing-down” is occurring, you’ve got to question whether by accident or design with this sort of thing slipping through the net.

  21. Pingback: Christopher Booker confirms what I said earlier about British State national curriculum GCSE physics papers « The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG

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