Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | April 2, 2009

GCSE Science

From BBC: Here are some examples taken from examining bodies offering the GCSE science paper (examination taken by English schoolchildren by age of  16).

 [Do not be confused: listed  under A) – D) are actual options  in multiple choice examinationas set by the examination bodies, not a selection of  especially funny answers from failing students! ]

GCSE Science (Edexcel, 2006) Our moon seems to disappear during an eclipse. Some people say this is because an old lady covers the moon with her cloak. She does this so that thieves cannot steal the shiny coins on the surface. Which of these would help scientists to prove or disprove this idea?

A) Collect evidence from people who believe the lady sees the thieves

B) Shout to the lady that the thieves are coming

C) Send a probe to the moon to search for coins

D) Look for fingerprints

GCSE Science (Edexcel, 2006) Many people observe the stars using

A) A telescope B) A microscope C) An X-Ray tube D) A synthesiser

GCSE Biology (AQA 2008) When we sweat water leaves the body through…

A) Kidneys B) Liver C) Lungs D) Skin

Higher paper in science GCSE, Edexcel At the astronomical club Alec and Louise discuss the possibility of intelligent life existing on other planets.

Which of the following statements supports the possibility of existence of intelligent life in our galaxy?

A) The galaxy is expanding very quickly

B) The earth is over four billion years old

C) The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence has spent millions of hours analysing signals from space

D) There are so many stars in the galaxy



  1. Alexandre, while I wouldn’t want to disagree with the general thrust of the story you link to and the examples you quote, how accurate/representative is this sample? (I get the impression, though I may just have misunderstood, that the exams are meant to be a mixture of questions, from the moderately taxing to the easy and down to the outright facile.)

    Moreover, is the “Science” set of papers (rather than separate examinations in physics, chemistry and biology) the normal option offered in schools?

  2. I don’t understand the question about the old lady; it looks like nonsense. In the case of the other three, I assume these are not “demanding enough” as the BBC report mentions.

    I have tutored students intending to take the GED test (secondary school equivalency, so intended for 18 year olds). The science part of that test has many questions at the level of those. They look to me like questions a 14-year old ought to be able to answer. So things are no better in the USA.

  3. What is the correct option in the question about the old lady ?
    I can imagine (reasonably) correct reasoning behind every choice….

  4. m: I’d say C, largely by elimination.

    B does nothing at all as far as epistemology goes. No information returns.

    D presupposes the existence of thieves, which is exactly what is to be tested. It’s a form of begging the question.

    A seems attractive, but it just pushes the inquiry one step back. It leaves unanswered the question of where those people obtained the evidence.

    C is the only option that proposes an actual experiment — complete with a return of information to the experimenter — to test part of the hypothesis , and doesn’t suggest taking someone else’s word for it.

  5. I should have askes what was the option considered as correct in the test.. what points
    were given for what option.
    A) Trying to understand the opponent’s point of view is a natural part of a scientific inquiry.
    As is trying to disprove the particular evidence your opponent claims.

    B) If the moon then disappears, that’s positive evidence.

    C) if there are no coins, that’s negative evidence.

    D) if there are fingerprints but no coins, that’s positive evidence.

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