Leading Cadet Exam

How different is the Leading Cadet exam now it’s all online compared with the old paper based exam?

The situation is that we’ve got a few cadets who’ve passed the 1st Class exam and are ready to progress but all of our staff members have joined since the last cadets did their Leading exams and the staff who took them through it have left since then so we’re a bit clueless as to what the exam contains nowadays.

I’m aware that the learning can be done and the exams are done online; we’re in the process of sorting out some computers for this. The guy filling the adjutant role on the Sqn. wants to wait until all this is sorted before starting the Leading training but I’m of the opinion that we can start the training now using the old style ACPs and then when the computers are sorted the cadets will be able to get straight on with their exams if they’re ready.

I accept that maybe some things have changed since my day but my argument is that the more science based content like Principles of Flight will always be the same so it can’t hurt to give the cadets a head start.

I can get an answer quicker here rather than going through official channels!

When staff are added to Bader an Ultilearn account is automatically generated for them. In addition, there is a generic Sqn ultilearn account.

The best bet is to get yourselves onto Ultilearn where you can download the Powerpoint files, Learning Outcomes, Instructor notes, &c.

Teach the lessons and the exams can be taken at home before you’ve even got the computers up and running at the squadron.
There’s no reason to hold the cadets back.

You can sit any exam as a staff member so you can see what the exams will be like!

I never bother with the office computer; someone else does while I’m in the classrooms with the cadets. I’ll get them to check it out though.

The actual questions aren’t much different from the old paper exams. I was shocked when I did the exams, as it seems the change to ultiflop was simply a money and time saving exercise (ie no printing of exams or resources ie the books nor needing people to mark them) without really making things better than they were.

I wouldn’t give them exams do at home, it’s meant to be an exam and should be under controlled conditions.

What we do is let the cadets sit the exam first before any teaching which gives us an idea what to concentrate on.
We have been tripped up once as a cadet passed a subject without any instruction, because of the poor system we have now, ie only 1 correct answer from 2 means a pass for that learning outcome, (so if there are 8 LOs, that’s only 8 correct answers to pass, opposed to a minimum 13 on the old system) they did it by (educated) guesswork, based on what they’d learned in school. They only have to do the bits they messed up, which seems is a nod to the rubbish of modular/coursework GCSE/A Level exam system. my kids did.

In some ways not different at all. For example, the exams still think we have Sea King, Nimrod MR2, Merlin, &c &c…

But the paper ones never made me want to stab myself.

Nothing wrong with allowing the cadets to take the exams at home, they are open book anyway so imposong exam conditions is a bit of a waste of time.

Absolutely. We’re supposed to remind them that it’s an open-book exam and that they may use online research to complete it, so it makes little difference how “controlled” the conditions are.

It amazes me how people still fail them frankly.

Open book implies having a book or a decent resource with words and pictures. We had books until a short time ago.

Having spent many hours researching things online be that personal, work and other interests, I think the cadets would ‘time out’ on the exam if they researched answers to questions. What surprises me (after the lad passing before doing anything) is how the cadets fail to see the ‘transfer’ of knowledge from school to cadets and vice versa. I’m sure some of what we do would be covered in schools or if not directly associated.

If we just give it to them to do at home, I could easily parade one night a week and not see any drop in value of what we do, in fact I think the value would increase as rather than trying to fill 2 nights a week with things, one night would result in better delivery as staff would be able to concentrate on ‘their’ thing. Whether or not the cadets would hang around is another thing.

Policy seems to have reduced classification instruction in its value/importance, the official resources are the electronic equivalent of electronic toilet paper and as a result it’s now a second rate sideshow and at the same time the classification system has lost it’s inherent structure. The whole programme may have gained BTEC L2 equivalence but doesn’t have the checks and balances I would expect for a qualification like this, as we effectively give it away. Our youngest daughter did an NVQ and while much of what she did was online and ‘open book’ (she was given a full set of resources and other online content) she had to meet with an assessor and had to demonstrate practical application of her acquired knowledge by her assessor and eventually her work went through moderation, two stages of verification and she said her assessor was assessed.

So you can have an open book, do it home system, but you need something to ensure that those delivering we are up to the job, but this would require us (from what I’ve seen my daughter do) to be trained etc on the subjects we instruct. It seems that whoever came up with this only had their eyes on the saving of not printing books etc for us to use as references or to teach from. I have experienced more problems with actually getting new staff to do classification training since it moved away from the old system, as they don’t have something, other than a ppt, to help them and faced with poor resources are reluctant.

When you consider DofE, we (and several other sqns I know) have to run nights getting cadets to do updates on eDofE, which IMO defeats the point of having an online system. Only 2 of our Silvers and our Gold even attempt anything at home. So online and electronic working while being the ‘modern way’ it’s not the food of the Gods people like to think it is (unless it’s the bean counters) and for many people (even youngsters) requires learning. I’ve got staff who are 20 and 30 something and don’t have much of a clue using ppt, an old sod like me is more proficient using ‘office’ software because I’ve used it for the last 25 years at work. I’ve been amazed at the lack of software skills among many cadets.

An NVQ (Or QCF) as they are now called are very different from a BTEC. A BTEC is very much a theory qualification whereas an NVQ is a practical work based assessment. To assess someone for NVQ’s the assessor must be qualified (a very tedious and dull thing to do). Whereas for a BTEC you just take the exam so the person delivering doesn’t need a formal qualification. My cadets are trained and then do the exams in their own time (with a deadline) I’ve never had any issues with them getting through it.

You may not need a formal qualification to deliver but you must have to know what you’re talking about. How many staff on every sqn could hand on heart say this?

Where (other than the ATC) could you just take an exam, via something like ultiflop, with no face to face with an instructor instruction/lessons etc etc to get a BTEC? Which is what the Corps training people seem to advocate. Without the instruction/lessons and access to people who know the subject matter, what standing does a BTEC have in terms of valid qualification?

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What depth does everyone teach to?

We’ve just taken 4 cadets through the 1st class and they’d started the training before I signed up so I started teaching about halfway through their training. I noticed that there are Pass, Merit and Distinction questions and was getting ready to teach some Merit stuff and the Training Officer told me not to bother as they usually just teach enough to get them a Pass as quick as possible…

I’d probably go to the other extreme and teach beyond what they needed to know; I remember in my day the ACP said something about Bernoulli proved how a wing causes lift but nowadays I’d happily spend a lesson going through his equation and doing a couple of calcs to show how his theory actually does prove lift so that the cadets understood what the statement about him meant rather than just accept it at face value.

I think if it’s worth knowing then it’s worth teaching. The same as an employer would rate an A* GCSE over a C GCSE; I’d rate a cadet with a Distinction in an exam over a cadet with a Pass in an exam as it shows they have a greater understanding of a subject.

I also help the older cadets with their revision for GCSE and A Level Maths and Physics; it could be argued this is a waste of my time as a cadet instructor but it’s these exams that will get the cadets the jobs they want in the RAF rather than the cadet exams.

The issue is, even if you do the Merit and Distinction stuff there is no way the cadets can actually achieve those grades overall in the BTECs because HQAC still haven’t implemented Merit and Distinction questions for Leading, Senior and Master cadet exams.

Its seems like a lot of extra work for no reward at the end, especially when passing first class is still the bar to doing a lot of other activities.

Get all to Pass stage, they can always re-visit Merit and Distinction at a later date if required.


What does merit or distinction mean in CV terms, when compared to proper exam grades? On an application sift the Corps’ BTEC would be an interesting talking point (along with being in the ATC) if they got to interview, but little more. I’d be more interested to see DofE on an application.

The fact we haven’t got anything higher than ‘pass’, is a shocking state of affairs, we had it before. It would be easy to do, up the number of questions per LO and then (if they still insist on 1 per LO as a pass) add up everything above that with boundaries. It would however require the same number of questions per subject. I think the badges (in keeping with the current fashion) should be different colours depending on the level of pass. I would also time limit the exam per sitting as the size and style of exams we have currently shouldn’t take any longer than 20 minutes. The problem with open book and levels of pass is that in theory with no time limit everyone gets distinction, which makes it both pointless and worthless.

Unfortunately BTEC Merit and Distinction levels can’t work on pure question passes. To be the higher level the cadets need to show more in depth knowledge - ie answering in questions using key terms and showing Understanding, not just Knowledge. I assume the issue is the Ultilearn is geared towards the LO type question and can’t/doesn’t automatically score essay question type answers.

Think about the 1st Class Logbook - Pass questions are usually one word, Distinction questions usually involve things like COMPARE, CONTRAST, etc. Much more difficult for a computer to mark.

Ironically the First Class book is more school-like than anything we do or did before in terms of classification subjects and the rationale for a move to ‘online learning’ (apart from cost saving) was so we didn’t have to replicate the school day on a parade night, as apparently this turned kids off joining. It would be a massive U turn and go down a path we never have, if 1st Class style books appeared for all subjects. But then just filling out the books unless done away from the sqn under controlled conditions could be done en-masse in the classroom with everyone getting a distinction. But having a controlled environment would then enforce a structured timeframe to the classification system, which is one of the thing that we have lost.

One of the biggest bugbears and hold ups of the old system was marking the papers. Our WTO at the time couldn’t wait to go to the online system as they didn’t have to organise people and give up a day or two, to mark papers. So if it went to a proper question system it would take time and require people who know the subject to mark it, which would then require an external moderation to ensure that all the marking was done properly. Every year after the exam results are issued there is invariably someone who queries the marks/marking.

Surely we used to have Merit & Distinctions on the old system which was also multi-guess? At least with the new system you have to teach the whole syllabus, under the old 13 question pass mark you could omit whole chunks of the syllabus and still get cadets through. (I knew a lot of people who glossed over Weather on Basic Nav as at most it would be 4 questions).

No, the old system Merit and Distinction were based on the number of multiple-guess correct, but still multiple-guess. The new system would require the cadets to demonstrate more in-depth, hence multiple-guess cannot be used.

But how do BTECs equate in terms of GCSE grades? If a BTEC ‘pass’ is a C that’s good enough for something done in hobby anything else would be disproportionate for the time spent and would indicate something not quite kosher.

The old DIPS can’t recall what they call it now, was always done sitting en-masse in a room with discussion and all the info and any cadet not getting the higher grade should have been shot. But like GCSE coursework, which seemed to go back and forth for tinkering and beautification, anyone not getting an A or higher was an idiot.

No idea what the Cadet BTEC is but I did a Level 3 Engineering BTEC years ago to get on to an Engineering degree and the top grade was at least 240 UCAS points if I remember correctly; so equivalent to a couple of A Levels I suppose.