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    Joined: Nov 2012
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    Originally Posted by 22B
    The current standard tests have way too low of a ceiling for the top students and the top unis. They may be okay for all but the top few percent of students, and for all but the top few dozen unis, but they are woefully inadequate for distinguish those in the upper ranges. It is an absolute myth that non-academic criteria are needed as a tie-breaker. What is needed is tougher tests, for those who are not separated by the low ceiling tests.

    Do Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE, O, A, AS level ?) do a better job in this respect than the standard US exams (SAT, ACT, AP) ?

    http://www.cie.org.uk/programmes-and-qualifications/

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    Not sure about Cambridge international exams but the same problem has cropped up with regular A-levels where almost 30% of students received As, so they had to introduce a new A* grade. Which 8,6% of students achieve.
    So Oxford and Cambridge colleges receive more applicants with nothing but A grades than they have places, too.

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    Originally Posted by Tigerle
    Not sure about Cambridge international exams but the same problem has cropped up with regular A-levels where almost 30% of students received As, so they had to introduce a new A* grade. Which 8,6% of students achieve.
    So Oxford and Cambridge colleges receive more applicants with nothing but A grades than they have places, too.

    Are there other standard exams that places like Cambridge and Oxford use which may differentiate among those top 8.6%?

    I see TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) but it has to be taken at the (Cambridge in-person) interview.

    http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/tests/

    ETA: TSA seems to be Cambridge specific, and only for some disciplines.

    Last edited by arlen1; 09/16/14 11:28 AM.
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    Just interviews afaik.

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    Val Offline
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    The exams you cited are part of a transparent admissions sytem (the Irish Leaving Cert, the French Bac, and the Swiss Matura are similar).

    All these exams expect students to synthesize knowledge from a (mostly) standardized curriculum and aren't based on memorization (an example of a test of memorized information is the AP US History exam).

    Sample A-level English literature question:

    Analyse (Emily) Brontë’s presentation of Nelly Dean, Joseph and Zillah in Wuthering Heights and analyse their importance in the novel as a whole.

    Sample question, Irish Leaving Certificate, Higher Level Maths:

    NOTE from Val: most of this stuff is in vector notation, which I can't reproduce here.

    2. (a) Find the value of s and the value of t that satisfy the equation
             s(i - 4j) + t(2i + 3j)= 4i - 27j

        (b) OP = 3i - 4j and OQ = 5(OP) where O is the origin.

           (i) Find OQ in terms of i and j.

           (ii) Find cos|angleOPQ| in surd form.

         (c) (I have omitted a proof using a triangle diagram)

    Sorry, but you just don't see stuff like this on the SAT, because it a) can't be graded with a Scantron-like device or by a $10 per hour grader in two minutes or less (ideally much less), and b) is quite simply asking too much of American students and their schools.

    The purpose of these exams is to identify students who are capable of college-level work. They're hard, and they require those "critical thinking skills" that get lip service but not much else in American schools. In many countries, secondary school exams are the sole gatekeepers of university admissions. No one at Trinity College, Dublin or University College, Cork cares about what you do after school is out. They care about your academic ability.

    Last edited by Val; 09/16/14 11:33 AM. Reason: Clarity
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    Originally Posted by 22B
    Also I never understood the philosophy of wanting students to be jack of all trades master of none.


    I don't think that such institutions ARE looking for jacks of any trades. Mostly they are seeking those who are masters of multiple domains, and it certainly makes sense to me why that should be so.

    We've all (in this community anyway) seen this-- the really interesting thing about HG kids is that so many of them are SO good at multiple domains. If you are given the choice, having only ONE seat available, and you can choose:

    a) student with top grades and test scores, with a set of three or four possible majors, interest in a wide variety of activities and skill at most of them, and who has leadership potential and clearly pro-social behavior beyond his/her years, versus...

    b) student with top grades and test scores, a clear obsession for the stated major, and who has a competitive win-streak and is a bit of a social misfit and loner.



    Which of those two applicants is the better choice, really?

    The former. They are statistically more likely to graduate, and graduating, more likely to find stable gainful employment. Now, the latter is a person that COULD turn out to be a Steve Jobs, but most of them don't.


    It is easy to assume that mathematicians, scientists, or engineers "don't really need" skills in the humanities or in communications. But that's profoundly untrue in the real world, where those skills open into a vast chasm between those who lack them and those who possess them.


    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.
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    And the levels attained for music and sports extracurriculars at places where admissions are focused on academic excellence are pretty damn amazing anyway. (About the only thing I disagree with in Pinker's text - no, you cannot find that level of excellence,that energy, that focus in extracurricular at tailgate uni. But it still shouldn't drive admissions - unless it is a to a music program, or a specialized school, such as juillard.

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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    a) student with top grades and test scores, with a set of three or four possible majors, interest in a wide variety of activities and skill at most of them, and who has leadership potential and clearly pro-social behavior beyond his/her years, versus...

    b) student with top grades and test scores, a clear obsession for the stated major, and who has a competitive win-streak and is a bit of a social misfit and loner.
    Hey smile. Speaking for the b's, being a very good chess player helped me get my first job in finance. A large fraction of Ivy League graduates go into finance, where employers value a "competitive win-streak". A big reason Harvard and Princeton can find families willing to pay $65K per year is the perceived inside track to finance and consulting jobs. The absence of engineering, accounting, nursing, and other pre-professional majors means that many Ivy league graduates are not qualified to do much else, except go to graduate school or Teach for America. Rich alumni in finance and other fields helped build those 11-figure endowments. And a reason the Ivies recruit athletes is that Wall Street likes them. With the exception of "leadership potential", I'm not sure that the most selective schools value (a) over (b).

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    Why on earth would you waste time with Chess when you could have been picking stocks?

    wink


    Sincerely, Bostonian, I'm not so sure that you were the B type either. I'm not talking about the type of competitiveness that celebrates a big tennis win, or enjoys chess trophies so much as the kind that enjoys the defeat of one's opponents by ANY means necessary. It's not the process, it's the notches on the belt, if you see my point.


    And really, one reason for the perceived preference of A over B there is that A-type students tend to be more "network" oriented due to extant pro-social tendencies, and also tend to (as a group) be more extroverted. They in turn become people who join alumni associations, etc. Eventually, they are people who turn into alumni donors, too. Loner types tend not to.

    It's not that I'm being naive about this-- merely nuanced.



    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.
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