The astronomy (S282) exam results are out and make interesting reading

It seemed at the time to be a difficult course to revise for and it proved to be quite difficult to do on the day too.

The multiple choice part was by far the easiest to do in practice with 60% of people picking up 70% (ie grade 1 or 2) on it and only 6% failing it.

The short answer questions show a dramatic drop in overall performance though. Although the individual question results don’t look too bad (50% in grade 1 or 2 in the two easiest questions, 25% on the two hardest in part 1), the overall mark for this section of the paper shows only 20% getting grade 1 or 2 and 25% failing it which means that a number of people didn’t answer the required number of questions.

By far the worst section was cosmology with question 15 on dark matter being a disaster for most people. Only 49% passed it and just 7% picked up a grade 1 or 2. Surprisingly, question 13 on Hubble classifications wasn’t much better with 52% passing it and 12% getting grade 1 or 2; I’m not sure why this happened as the question doesn’t look amazingly difficult but clearly an awful lot of people dropped marks all over the place on it.

Some individual questions proved to be surprisingly difficult and have a deceptively easy look to them. Question 10 on star properties felled 35% of those doing it and Question 12 on the end of life of stars proved to be difficult to do really well with although most people passed it. The Hubble classification question was a shock to me as it looks like it should be easy to do well with it yet few did and almost half failed it. Probably the oddest result is that of the final question on the universe though, with almost identical numbers of people in every percentile which implies that people generally did that last and just answered whatever they could. Quite a peculiar spread to the marks even so.

Answering the right number of questions is something that many people fell down on. Despite not overly great marks in individual questions the overall marks for the short answer section were lower than most individual questions which implies that people skipped questions altogether. You just can’t afford to do that on a difficult paper and it resulted in 25% of people failing that section. Thanks to the multiple choice section this equates to around 10% failing overall.

Rather a difficult subject to do well with and one that I’m glad I don’t have to repeat. Commiserations to the 40 or so people who will be resitting it.

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