Edexcel Music Technology // Unit 2 // 6MT02 / 01 // 2014
21st May 2014, Edexcel managed to somehow produce a dual mono CD for their AS Music Technology exam.
First question that springs to my mind is – how exactly did they achieve this feat? How do you manage to accidentally produce a CD in mono in the 21st Century? I’m genuinely curious as to how it happened!
Second point – what happened to vetting procedures / quality control at one of the country’s biggest exam boards – did no one bother to check the CDs or did the people who tried them out simply not notice that they were in MONO? It took me less than 5 seconds to work it out!
More serious is the potential effect on the students who took the exam! There have been loads of tweets about the impossibility of answering questions regarding stereo field when listening to a mono track – I count around about 6 marks out of 80 here.
But it is potentially much more serious than that…
1) STEREO to MONO conversions have to be carefully handled and not done by accident as they can significantly affect the balance of a track – certain elements can sometimes even disappear completely! This certainly wasn’t done carefully, (it was a mistake), and having listened to the Edexcel versions side by side with the artists’ originals, there are big differences in some areas. It may not be just the ‘stereo’ questions that are an issue here…
- In mono, the balance between the various instruments often changes dramatically.
- Any stereo FX such as reverb and chorus can often sound very different in mono.
- Even the frequency content of a track can change.
- Phase cancellation – the potential issues here are well documented.
In short, the focus of many different questions on the exam paper become at best ‘more challenging’; certain questions simply become impossible to answer.
2) The sheer confusion and upheaval in the exam could possibly have ‘thrown’ the concentration of a number of candidates – you’re in a high pressure situation and suddenly everything is not as it should be and it’s all out of your control….not ideal to put it mildy!
This was a serious nationwide blunder by the exam board – it has affected 1000s of students.
I watch and listen with interest to see how they will respond.