Trends in the Choice of A-Level Mechanics Options by Students Entering Engineering Degree Courses

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


In recent years the A-level Mathematics syllabus has steadily broadened from its traditional base of 'pure' mathematics and classical mechanics, introducing material on probability and statistics and decision mathematics. At the same time the examination of the subject has been increasingly modularised and the choice of optional modules has been greatly increased. As a result the level of knowledge of classical mechanics demonstrated by students who have a mathematics A-level qualification has declined markedly. Some University disciplines, notably Physics and most types of Engineering, have traditionally relied on a students arriving at university with a good level of knowledge of classical mechanics. Lecturers in these areas have noticed a steadily declining familiarity with the standard models and methods of classical mechanics. This trend is set to continue with the introduction of the 2004 changes to the structure of A-level mathematics under which students offering single subject mathematics will study no more than two modules of mechanics. Further, there is no requirement for students to study any mechanics at all; a single or double subject A-level in mathematics can be obtained by following application modules in statistics and decision mathematics only. A paper presented at MEE06 reported the results of a survey of students entering the first year of Engineering degree courses at Bristol University in 2005. The survey investigated the option modules taken by those students. A similar survey was undertaken in October 2006. This paper will report the results of this second survey and draw comparisons with the results reported previously, revealing the extent to which the 2004 syllabus and structural changes have resulted in a further decline in the level of preparation in mechanics of students entering technical degree courses at Bristol University.
Translated title of the contributionTrends in the Choice of A-Level Mechanics Options by Students Entering Engineering Degree Courses
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6th IMA Conference on Mathematical Education of Engineers, Loughborough, 6-9 April 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: IMA/Loughborough University

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