1980 Paper

The members of staff of a Department of Psychology wanted to see if students who had done A-levels in science subjects made better psychologists than those who had done A-levels in arts subjects. The professor of psychology undertook to investigate the matter and produced the following report for his colleagues:

"I have looked at the performance of the 40 students who took finals this year. In order to obtain some measure of their abilities as psychologists, I have calculated for each student the total number of marks obtained in our seven closed final examination papers. Since there were 100 marks available on each paper, each student has a total out of 700.

"I have attempted to classify the students as being 'scientists' or 'artists' in terms of the A-levels they had done before coming to university. Ten students had done science subjects exclusively (I have regarded Psychology itself as being a science) and 13 students had done only arts subjects at A-level. The remaining 17 students are accounted for as follows:

5 students had done a mixture of arts and sciences at A-level

5 students had at least one A-level that was difficult to classify as arts or science (e.g., Geography, Sociology)

7 students had not done A-levels at all but were mature students from a variety of backgrounds (e.g., Open University, nursing, etc. )

"The mean scores obtained in finals for these groups were as follows:

Group N Mean Score
Scientists 10 574
Artists 13 348
Mixed 5 464
Unclassified 5 420
Mature 7 632

"A one-way analysis of variance carried out on the scores from which these means are derived revealed a significant effect, F(4,35) = 4.91, p < .05.

"I am satisfied, therefore, that the 'scientists' are superior to the 'artists' but I was particularly intrigued by the excellent performance of the students in the 'mature' group. Accordingly, I have analysed these data further. My suspicion is that age may be a more important determinant of performance in finals than is A-level background; the mature students, after all, do very well but have no A-level passes. I have looked at this by computing two correlations.

"First, I gave each student a score based on the total A-level passes and grades that he achieved. There was no significant correlation between these scores and the marks gained in finals; r = .10, p > .05. However the correlation between the chronological age of the students and their finals marks was significant, r = .23, p < .05.

"I conclude, therefore:

  1. The grades attained at A-level have little effect in determining final degree class;
  2. The subjects taken at A-level have a small effect on final degree class; and
  3. The most important factor in determining degree class is the age of the student ."

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