Dennis Fowle asks "Were exams tougher or easier 70 years ago ?"

We are always pleased to reconnect with Old Bordenians from whom we have not heard from in a while.  Dennis Fowle was at the School 1945-51 and as we reconnected, offered this thoughtful look at the standards back in the day:

"Is the General Certificate of Education (GCSE) easier or more difficult for students than the General School Examination (GSE) it replaced in 1988 in many schools?

I certainly am not brave enough to offer an opinion – but I can offer a few of the questions I had to tackle in the summer of 1950 at Borden Grammar School.

They come from the papers tucked away in my personal files for 72 years and which occasionally intrigue our children and grandchildren.

GEOGRAPHY (two questions). Give a brief geographical account of any two of the following :- orange growing in Spain; textile manufacturing in Italy; iron-ore mining in France; steel manufacturing in western Germany; mineral production in Russia.

With the help of sketch maps describe the position and trade of three of the following ports: Barcelona, Hamburg, Le Havre, Leningrad, Naples, Rotterdam.

FRENCH Translate into French: Louis sat down on a bench; he was trembling with fear and anger, but he tried to remain calm. Why was he in prison? He had gone several times with his friend to the house where they had arrested him. He did not know the men whom he had met there, but he liked them. Evidently they were poor, but he found their conversation very interesting. What were his wife and mother doing? They would be mad with anxiety, and his mother old, and already ill. After some hours the door of the cell opened, and a policeman appeared. He led Louis into another room where a man was seated at the table. “You are called Louis Sarrasin, aren’t you?” he said. “We took from you your watch, your wallet, and some letters; here they are. Choose your friends better. You are free, go away.”

ALGEBRA (three questions). If   x+2y=8a and 2x-y=a, solve the equations, obtaining x and y each in terms of a.   Two numbers are in the ratio 2 : 3. When 21 is added to each, their ratio changes to 41 : 60. Calculate the two numbers.     A motorist on his outward journey from A to B travels a distance of 120 miles, he returns from B to A by a longer route of 126 miles on which his average speed is 5mph greater than the outward journey. If the total time for the double journey is 9 hours, calculate the average speed on the outward journey.

PHYSICS (two questions) Define coefficient of linear expansion and describe an experiment to determine its value for a metal. The distance between two points is measured on a cold day in winter with a brass scale correct at 60 degrees F. Explain why the measurement is inaccurate and state, giving your reason, whether the distance is greater or less than the observed value.

CHEMISTRY (two questions) How would you show experimentally that (a) quick lime contains oxygen (b) red lead contains both oxygen and lead (c) potassium chlorate contains chlorine (d) sulphuretted hydrogen contains sulphur?         How and under what conditions do the following elements react with steam: (a) carbon (b) magnesium (c) iron? The action of steam on iron is said to be reversible.   Explain what is meant by this. What everyday use is made of this reaction with carbon and what is the common name of the product? Explain what occurs when this product is passed slowly over red hot ferric oxide.

ENGLISH Do you find anything incorrect or slovenly in the following sentences? Rewrite them, where necessary, in good English and give reasons for the changes: - (i) Since the beginning of the war, eggs have been in short supply. (ii) No-one can be easy in their minds about the prospect of good weather tomorrow. (iii) Dear Sir, We enclose your account to the end of May. Wishing to collect all debts due to us, will you please send us your cheque as soon as you can? (iv) After dinner,

John felt so ill that he had to lay down for an hour. (v) Mary made tea for my sister and I.   (vi) After his illness, he went away for three weeks holiday.

ENGLISH LITERATURE Twelfth Night – Write an account of the way in which you would play the part, in a school stage production, of either Antonio in the play as a whole or Sir Toby in the duel scene (Act 3, Scene 4).

GEOMETRY (two questions)   Prove that, if two triangles are equiangular, their corresponding sides are proportional.

From the mid-point of the longest side of a triangle whose sides are 7, 24 and 25 inches, a perpendicular to that side is drawn. Calculate the length of this perpendicular contained within the triangle, indicating clearly the reasons for the steps in your calculation.

ARITHMETIC (two questions) The population of Denmark is 4,045,000 and its area is 42,920 Taking one mile as 1.609km, calculate to three significant figures the average number of persons to the square mile. At what price does a 2½ per cent stock stand if it gives the same return on money invested as a 4 percent stock at 106?

I am sure if I had these examination papers in front of me today I would have no chance of matching the five credits and two passes needed then for matriculation."