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Recently, I was reading this article online (Science and maths exams are harder than arts subjects, say researchers) by a reputed online magazine Guardian. In it, Durham researchers have found that, “At A-level, science, maths and technology subjects are not just more difficult than the non-sciences, they are without exception among the hardest of all A-levels. At GCSE, the sciences are a little more difficult than the non-sciences.“.
However, there are many rebuttals, for instance: Ian McNeilly, director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: “It seems scientists, on the one hand, decry the quality of their intake at universities and, on the other, say that their exams are so very hard. Any view of English as a ‘soft option’ is absolute nonsense. If the scientists tried to do it, they would find it wasn’t such a breeze.”
My view is that on one hand, yes Math is hard especially if the student doesn’t know what he/she is doing. It is very possible to get zero marks if the student makes a careless mistake in the very first step, or goes completely off tangent in approaching the question. However, in humanities, the only possible way to get zero marks is to hand up a blank script of paper. As long as you write something, most likely you will get some marks.
However, if the student knows what he/she is doing, and has sufficient practice, Math is actually easier. (We are not talking about the Riemann Hypothesis here, just high school and perhaps up to college mathematics.) In Math, we often hear of students scoring full marks, which they fully deserve if they know how to do every question. On the other hand, it is impossible to score full marks in English Literature, especially if there is an essay component. No essay is perfect!
Of course, there are ways to be good at both the Science and the Arts. For instance, From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts is a highly regarded book on how to integrate arts curriculum into STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics) courses.
Personally, I will not dismiss arts as “easy”, as arts do need time and effort to achieve mastery. Not everyone can write essays like Shakespeare, nor can everyone write calligraphy like the famous Wang Xizhi of China.
However, in the context of examinations, based on my personal experience, and readings on the internet, Math / Hard Science exams are indeed harder and more difficult than arts exams. This has a very negative effect of students dropping Math / Science subjects to major in “easier” subjects. Another point of concern is grade inflation in other subjects.
Most importantly, what do you think? Is Math easier or harder than other subjects?
Please vote, and forward this to your friends for voting! I will be really interested to know the results.