What Makes Our Students Succeed?
computing, mathematics, or scientific
qualifications, may well have an advantage because they are familiar with the
types of question encountered and have
developed the skills necessary to tackle
such questions with confidence. Bergin
and Reilly found that leaving certificate
“mathematics and science scores were
shown to have a strong correlation with
performance” [2:411], but we believe that
we must also consider whether the ability
to interpret and comprehend what a
question is asking, may be a fundamental
skill that differentiates individual student
We strongly suspect from our preliminary analysis that an English qualification is
important, however we intend to investigate whether those students attaining a
grade ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the exam, who did not
have a Higher English qualification, may
have had other Higher qualifications such
as History or Modern Studies; subjects in
which there is a significant reading/writing
component. Alternatively, we wondered
perhaps, if they might have attained high
grades in English at the levels immediately
preceding Higher, i.e. Standard Grade or
If reading comprehension is a signifi-
cant factor regulating achievement in our
student cohort, then it could impact the
way in which we screen potential appli-
cants. Currently, a single ‘relevant’ Higher
qualification in any subject is sufficient to
gain direct entry to our HNC Computing
course. By ‘relevant,’ an assumption is
implied that the Higher qualification in
question would be in computer science,
a science subject, or mathematics. Our
preference is that students enrolling on
level 6, however, have a credit ( 1 or 2) at
standard grade, or an ‘A’ or ‘B’ at Interme-
diate 2 level in English, before gaining a
place. Perhaps having that level of English
qualification could account for most level
6’s who progress to HNC, attaining a ‘B’
grade. Our next steps will be to extend our
study backwards to incorporate results
from the 2010–11 cohort, before examin-
ing the qualifications of this year’s direct
entry HNC Computing students. We will
attempt to predict their final exam grades
(after they have sat the graded unit exam
in April) based upon the number of Higher
qualifications and level of English qualifi-
cation they possess. In doing so, we hope
to be able to establish whether there is any
real correlation between language ability
and the exam success of our students.
Have any other computing science
teachers observed a similar correlation
between reading comprehension and
exam performance? Your input would be
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Moray College UHI
Moray IV30 1JJ
Gillian M. Bain
Moray College UHI
Moray IV30 1JJ
DOI: 10.1145/3078322 Copyright held by authors.
If reading comprehension is a
significant factor regulating achievement
in our student cohort, then it
could impact the way in which we
screen potential applicants.