Archive for March, 2009

Leaving Cert vs A Levels

March 22, 2009

When I was younger, I used to hear people compare the Irish Leaving Certificate with A Levels.

There’s one big difference: students study seven, eight or even more subjects for Leaving Cert, but typically three or maybe four at A-Level. There are other minor differences: the Leaving Cert is state-run, so there’s one syllabus and one examining body etc. People talk about The Leaving Cert. A-Levels are run by different boards: there’s really no central body.

Anyway, I have two data points on the Leaving Cert vs A-Levels.

One, after a while in university, I found myself working as a Teaching Assistant to students, products of the British Education System. The biggest thing I learnt was that Maths at Leaving Cert seemed to prepare students considerably better than Maths at A-Level. Leaving Cert Maths seemed to be harder.

Now, I was a bit biased: I’d had several years at university to learn more, so it’s possible my view was coloured. Als0, it’s possible (although, frankly, unlikely) that in the Applied Maths dept at QUB, a selection bias exposed me to less able sutdents. (Perhaps those that only barely got A’s on Maths & Further Maths at A-Level. :-)

That’s data point one: that Leaving Cert Maths (coupled with Applied Maths) was at least comparable, possibly harder than A-Level maths.

The second data point is French: I did Leaving Cert French (I got a B, I think). Then quite a few years later (for a laugh), I did A-Level French. (I think there were AS- and A2- exams; I forget the terminology – it was a few years ago.) And the thing I remember most was that A-Level French was much, much harder than Leaving Cert French.

In fact, in terms of how deep you got, A-Level French was more like Leaving Cert Irish. At A-level you have to read several books, write essays on them, figure out all sorts of weird tenses, generally develop a reasonable grasp of the language. Leaving Cert French is a joke by comparison: I don’t think the subjunctive was even mandatory. Seriously. (This said, we had a poor teacher in final year French for Leaving Cert, and I kinda lost interest, so I might have just, y’know, missed that.) But there were no books, no opinions. In terms of degree of difficulty, A-Level French is more like Leaving Cert Irish (books, grammar in painful depth, opinions, mastery etc.)

I don’t have any points of comparison other than those two languages. Summary: Leaving Cert Maths is hard (A-Level Maths is probably easier, comparably hard at best). A-Level French is hard, Leaving Cert French is a piece of piss by comparison.

Dealing with happening shit

March 10, 2009

How you deal with “shit happens” seems to define you.  Do you shrivel up and run away, or do you gird yourself and just keep plugging away until the problem is solved?

You can often win just by not giving up.

Primer on US gun law

March 9, 2009

This is an interesting blog entry on US gun law:

http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2009/03/a_primer_on_federal_gun_law.php