He who dares wins full marks for showing off in exams

Some leading British female academics told The Independent yesterday that male students are rewarded for showing off, while women tend to play safe when it comes to passing exams.

The novelist Antonia Byatt, who got a first from Cambridge, lectured at University College London for 11 years.

"Those women who do get Firsts have the same qualities as men. They are brilliant and daring," she said.

"The problem is that most female students I taught tended to fall into a timid blodge in the middle. They are more anxious about getting a decent 2:1 and they are not terribly ambitious.

"Men are prone to showing off. Those who get Thirds are showing off a different, although, still interesting way, when compared to those who get Firsts. Unlike women, men tend not to play safe."

Germaine Greer, feminist and lecturer in English at Cambridge University, said: "Men do seem to get higher marks but I don't think that matters.

"Women who get Seconds are a great pleasure to teach and often have more adaptable characteristics which employers want. Those who get Firsts tend to be fragile and only fit for a life of academe."

Lisa Jardine, critic and lecturer in English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, believes modern degree courses do away with academic discrimination. She said: "There is no difference in the perceptions between the genders when it comes to discussing the subject in hand. The problem is the methods of exam.

"A three-hour examination tests temperament and characteristics that are naturally stronger in men. This type of testing has no relevance to the modern world.

"With continuous assessment you can see whether a student really understands the subject rather than just rewarding the short burst of brilliance needed for an exam.

"Men are no longer achieving higher results in the new style degrees. It is passe to talk about this, because women are now outstripping men."

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