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  • Post Foundation Degree Mates Orals Prep recommendations please.

    First of all I have to say I did think of posting this anonymously or even using a different account, but I cannot see any point in trying to hide anything providing I am as honest and factual as I can be.

    “The Hatchling” attended Warsash in November last year to do his FD Mates Course. I believe that there were about 20 people on the course, many of whom were self funded. Early in the 4 weeks orals revision a number of students complained about the lack of support and they were all then handed course materials that they should have had at the start.

    To cut a long story short the pass rate for the orals was extremely poor. From hearsay someone reported that the Masters course prior to the Mates course was even worse, but I do know that a lot more than half failed.

    So how much of this has to do with the college and how much to do with the MCA is open to interpretation, but with the increasing tales of woe over the last year or so I have my suspicions.

    He has been at home for 3 months now, working away for a re-sit of his orals and has had a second fail this week. He is not alone. So far 3 of his cohort have re-sat and all 3 failed. Two more are up within the next month and they must be anxious as hell.

    Whatever has gone before is done. “The Hatchling” is back off to sea for a trip and then will be redoing his Mates Orals later in the summer/autumn. We have made an informed decision that Warsash is not the place to be. He experienced poor support, missed lectures by lecturers and other bits of chaos which means he has no faith in the college. Also discussions have revealed that the Library is closing down and moving over to Southampton but they still have not sorted out opening hours or even if the library will be open over the summer yet. Gone will be the days of students being in the library past midnight!

    What am I after?

    I am posting on his behalf because he does not really have much to do with the forum and I have offered to help him make an informed decision and I knew you lot could help. I have spent some time talking to various people today. Recruiters, Chief Pilots etc. and from what I can see he would be better doing the Mates Orals Prep in Fleetwood or Liverpool and retaking his orals in Liverpool. But he has to wait a couple of weeks before his NOE comes back so we want to use the time wisely to gather more information.

    Does anyone know historical pass rates for FD Mates Orals courses from around the country? From a conversation today it looks like John Moores in Liverpool has an 80% first time pass rate for Mates, but that may not be totally accurate as I do not have the statistical evidence.

    What are specific colleges like for Mates Orals Prep? Liverpool charges £995 for 4 weeks and Fleetwood charges £1,200 for 5 weeks prep. Warsash charge £3,335 for their course including NAEST and HELM , which are about £1,040 and £610 respectively elsewhere, so it looks like their orals prep for 4 weeks is about £1,685 – which now seems steep.

    Does anyone have personal recommendations?

    If so what is the best way about sorting accommodation?

    Any recommendations on accommodation?


    I have told him I think he would be best to stay in lodgings somewhere with another person doing the same course so they can revise together, but I also have a recommendation for some extra tuition for Liverpool if he needs it.

    Can anyone give me further advice?

    It is sad really, back in my day Warsash had a proud, and very strong, global reputation. Even when “The Hatchling” was going away to sea it was still strong and so I advised him to ask to go to Warsash, which he did. In the space of 6 years that reputation seems to have gone in my opinion – and that saddens me….... It is not for me to debate how and why…

    There is another side story to this post in as much as there is no proper recording, or means of challenging, the MCA about exams and results. The old fashioned methods of chaperones for female candidates is, in my opinion, unequal and everyone else in the land can be challenged on every decision, including Judges and the Judiciary but the MCA cannot. There is no sound or video recordings of Orals, no challenge that is meaningful, because the only person that makes notes is the examiner, and they are not corroborated or audited unless an examiner is being assessed. Even police suspects have the safety of recorded sound and video in interviews these days! I think it is time they changed, but that is just my opinion as well.

    Thanks,

    Ian
    "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
    "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

    "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

  • #2
    Well this sounds somewhat familiar. I attempted my mates up in Shields a couple of years ago, and had a similar experience. I believe the pass rate for our class was below 20%. Combination of the poor prep at the college and the examiners up there asking a lot of ridiculous and irrelevant questions.

    I subsequently went up to Glasgow Maritime Academy and did my orals in Glasgow, which I passed without too much difficulty. The exam I had there was much more along the lines of what you would expect and what we covered in the prep at GMA, unlike at Shields where about 75% of the stuff I got asked we simply hadn't covered and I hadn't been expecting.

    GMA was somewhere in the region of a grand for the course which was four weeks and was pretty much 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. I booked my orals several months in advance for the Monday after the course finished which I found beneficial as everything was fresh and I wasn't hanging around for a couple of months like some of my classmates. I'm not going to go over the top with praise for it like I've heard other people do and say it is a guaranteed pass or anything, it does have its flaws and not everyone passed but overall the pass rate was much better than at Shields and most people in the class passed. The main downside we had was that there were too many people in the class (we had about 30 and that was a mixture of mates, masters, master 200 etc). I think it is becoming a victim of its own success in that regard. However they run the course every month and some months might be busier than others so its probably just your luck on that. I know other people who've gone there and the class was half that size. The general knowledge stuff sometimes felt a bit hap hazard and it was all very focused towards the sort of stuff they ask at Glasgow so don't be expecting it to cover absolutely everything, if they don't ask it at Glasgow it might not get covered. However as far as I'm concerned that's a good thing. I'm sure your son just wants to pass the exam and get it over with and doesn't particularly care about learning anything extra! That's certainly how I felt. The ROR stuff is very good and there is a lot of firing questions around and group discussion which I found beneficial. They have an online elearning thing and interactive quizzes etc which are pretty good.

    Accommodation wise I just stayed at home and commuted but most of the guys who were from further afield just found something on air B&B for a month.

    The fact the course runs every month is good as it is much easier to fit around ship contracts than the big colleges and they also operate a "class till you pass" policy whereby if you fail you can go back and do the course again for free as many times as you want until you pass (there was a couple of guys in our class who were taking advantage of this and had done the course previously). There were also a couple of people who were doing half the course, then going to sea then doing the rest of the course after their next contract. Not something I'd recommend but I guess it suits some people.

    Any questions on the above then fire away or feel free to send me a PM.

    Oh and don't get me started on the MCA, the examination process, the "please send us lots of paperwork, and originals of all your certification despite the fact we have seen it before, so we can send it back to you, so you can send it to your local office to book an exam etc etc". I did a longer rant about this before but it is an organisation which is badly needing dragged into the 21st century.

    Hope your son has better luck this time round, I know exactly how he feels. It's very demoralising but just got to keep at it.

    Comment


    • #3
      EH75,

      Thank you for your response. I appreciate it. I had heard that Shields is known for diversity of examinations and therefore the pass rates are lower. As to GMA I am fully aware of the fact that they have mixed classes and large class sizes and I am also well aware of all the problems they caused or had when there were problems with the local college and conflicts of interest. I even remember putting in a complaint when they advertised on their website that they had a 99% pass rate. Which was impossible - 1 fail in 100 exams..... The Advertising Standards Authority agreed with me.

      I also struggle with "Class til you pass" - whilst it may point to the fact that they are confident I also feel that you may have a few trips back and forth still. I know of one person who paid for private tuition of a number of hours a week, plus mock orals plus a number of other sessions and spent a lot of money and still failed.

      Their online elearning tool shows on the web page as being dated 2014 - so may be well out of date now, but your point about peer group learning is the most valid. I have been able to help my son with his OOW - I still remembered rules, lights & shapes, signals, flags etc and was well able to stick scenarios to him and be helpful, but all the new stuff for Mates is well beyond me. Marpol was in it's infancy in 1983 when I was half way through my cadetship! So I have done loads with him during the last 3 months but he needed to be in a peer group to get the best out of it. This is why I think he needs to repeat the orals prep - peer group learning was the most valuable thing to me during oral exam times.

      Now, I know that not everyone can pass these orals - it is the nature of the beast that it is tough - but I think they are setting people up to fail. I will give you examples. The examiner asks a question that is to do with the loading of a wet coal cargo into a bulker in Australia to be shipped to China to a candidate and whether they would refuse to load it. In everyday life, on a ship they will have a cargo operation manual and access to all the rules and regulations to enable them to look up, or ask the right questions, in order to come to an informed decision. Why does the orals room not have all of the publications in, same as you would have on a ship, and you get asked a question and your knowledge tells you to go to volume aaa of regulation xxx to look up the table and give an answer? Why do you have to learn everything off by heart? You would be fired for flying by the seat of your pants in the real world! Also, why are these things "fails". I understand that if you make fundamental errors in nav, seamanship, rules etc. you are off up the road. But to get a fail because you could not give a definitive number of pitches to rolls to be considered parametric rolling, when actually there are a number of answers to the question is just plain nuts!

      And you are right about MCA and paperwork. You get your NOE by sending off everything. You fail your orals and you want to sit again so you would think that you just tick a box on the form and hand it in and they send you a new NOE in a few days so you can book your orals again straight away...... NAH! Stupid idea.... send it all off again, wait a month and then get an orals date in 3 months....

      Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! LOL.

      He is demoralised at this time, but not bowed. He will pick himself up and keep going, he knows where he wants to be in 10 years time and for that he needs his Mates and Masters.

      I have had a lot of private messages from people offering advice and some even giving similar feedback to what my son has had and this makes me realise he is not isolated in his experience.

      Thanks for your help.

      Ian.
      "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
      "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

      "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

      Comment


      • #4
        I wonder what the statistics are between Post HND and Post FD. I have just done my SQA Exams post HND and i am about to embark on mates orals prep. The amount of learning and understanding needed for passing the SQA's i Feel has given me a very firm grounding in stability and navigation (most of which i had forgotten or was an advancement on what i already knew) and also put my brain firmly back in study and retain mode. We all know that a lot of this information is no reflection on our real life ability to do our jobs, so it tends to fade away after our cadetships. I understand they have removed the exemption now so that anyone who has done an FD after 2015 now has to sit the SQA which i think is correct (not bitter at all).. maybe at the time but now i have done it i feel better for it.

        I am doing my Orals prep at City of Glasgow college and having done my SQA prep here i can highly recommend them!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hatchorder View Post
          EH75,

          Thank you for your response. I appreciate it. I had heard that Shields is known for diversity of examinations and therefore the pass rates are lower. As to GMA I am fully aware of the fact that they have mixed classes and large class sizes and I am also well aware of all the problems they caused or had when there were problems with the local college and conflicts of interest. I even remember putting in a complaint when they advertised on their website that they had a 99% pass rate. Which was impossible - 1 fail in 100 exams..... The Advertising Standards Authority agreed with me.

          I also struggle with "Class til you pass" - whilst it may point to the fact that they are confident I also feel that you may have a few trips back and forth still. I know of one person who paid for private tuition of a number of hours a week, plus mock orals plus a number of other sessions and spent a lot of money and still failed.
          Yeah I was doing my cadetship at the City of Glasgow college when the guy who started GMA left to set it up, certainly ruffled a lot of feathers and don't think he went about it particularly well. My main criteria when choosing somewhere to redo the prep was where was most convenient for me and what would get me the best value. The fact I could stay at home and save on accommodation and the safety net of if I did fail again being able to re do the prep at no extra charge were the deciding factors really. Also the course being run every month made it much easier to fit in with ship rotations etc. If I had wanted to go to one of the official colleges I would've had to pay more money and wait longer to do the course, and have less teaching hours. So it worked out well for me.

          Having said all that I think Fleetwood/Liverpool is supposed to be decent, I've not really heard anything bad about it (unlike Warsash and Shields which both don't seem to be too great at the moment).

          I still think so much of it is luck of the draw in terms of the exam you get. As you say some of the information you are expected to retain is completely unrealistic and frankly, a waste of time.

          Agree with the above point about SQAs. I was exempt from these and given the issues a few of my colleagues have had trying to pass them I'm glad that was the case, but at the same time I reckon I would've been much better prepared for my orals if I'd had to do writtens as well.

          Comment


          • #6
            Right,

            Just a quick update................

            I had a lot of private messages from people giving advice that they did not want to put in public, people asking for my advice as they are about to embark on their next ticket and finally those with messages of support for "The Hatchling"

            As for his personal circumstances he is off back to sea tomorrow, and he will look to extend his trip to 4 months if he is enjoying it so he can go to college in September, during his leave, without having to take more unpaid leave.

            We had a lot of advice from people about Liverpool being consistently good in Orals results, either through Liverpool John Moores or Fleetwood. We contacted both colleges and Fleetwood were extremely helpful and have provisionally booked him onto the 2 courses in September and October. Liverpool have cancelled the August course and were unable to say if the September course was going ahead because of "Lecturer timetable clashes" - I think they have a shortage of lecturers at this time.

            Fleetwood is £1,200 for 4 weeks orals prep and Liverpool was £995 for 5 weeks orals prep.

            Whilst doing all this I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the MCA which was worded:

            Dear Maritime and Coastguard Agency,

            I would like specific detailed information on the pass/fail statistics for the orals exams for each of the examining Offices in the UK for the years 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 broken down by Office and the following exam type:

            Master Unlimited Unlimited
            Mate Unlimited Unlimited
            Officer of Watch Deck Unlimited Unlimited
            Chief Engineer Unlimited Unlimited
            Second Engineer Unlimited Unlimited
            Officer of Watch Engineer Unlimited Unlimited

            I do not need the statistics for any other orals examination type. If the current year to date statistics are not available then I would like to request the same information for 2014.

            If the statistics are further broken down by examiner they I would like that information included as well please.

            Yours faithfully,

            I sent it on 10th of April and got no response, so sent it again on 27th April with a request for acknowledgement and a timescale and this morning I got a letter from the Data Handling Officer confirming they had received it and would answer me by the 8th May.

            I thought it was important to gather statistical evidence for the sake of the forum, and for all tickets, so that everyone can see if there is actually any difference as well as seeing if there had been a deterioration in results. Now I know that not everyone who takes the exam in Southampton went to Warsash, especially on resits, but it will give us a general idea for each office and the associated Colleges.

            Watch this space...........

            Ian.
            "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
            "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

            "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks Ian for your constant work. These stats will certainly be interesting..

              Comment


              • #8
                It will be interesting to see if there's any variation between centres as examiners are moved around, and whether a higher pass-rate at a centre can be attributed to a particular examiner...

                Thanks for looking into this hatch!
                Pointy bit is the front, blunt bit is the back... Simples!

                Will work for money/sea time.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Very interested to see these statistics!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    An update:

                    The Hatchling got an email from Liverpool today to say they have cancelled the Chief Mates course for September as well now. Looks like they have some problems.

                    So, depending on his trip he is off to Fleetwood in September or October. Now he just needs to sort out this trip, and sort out the time to go to college and he will be up there in a few months. Just need to sort out a house or accommodation for the course and anyone else who is going to see if they want to share.

                    Regards,

                    Ian
                    "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
                    "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

                    "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      RESULTS!

                      I received a reply to my Freedom of Information request from the MCA which was only partially satisfied. They did not provide me with the break down by examiner citing:

                      In order to provide you with the information on the scale that you have requested, it would require in excess of 1,200 paper records to be recalled from our remote store facility, and for these records to be analysed by hand to collate and assess the information. This would then need to be transposed into a format appropriate for statistical analysis and reporting.

                      Section 12 of the Act makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for central government is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

                      We estimate that it will take us in excess of 3.5 working days to determine appropriate material and locate, retrieve and extract the information in reference to your request. Therefore, your request will not be processed further.


                      However, they did provide me with the statistical evidence by office for the last 4 years. I will take up the issue of the additional costs for the other information I requested, as I do not believe that they do not keep that statistical information collated for analysis of examiners……

                      So, The first thing I did was tabulate all of the separate spreadsheets into one set of sheets. I placed them in order of the total number of exams performed by each office. Tyneside did 3960 exams in 4 years, Glasgow did 2553, Liverpool 1968, Southampton 1426, Belfast 588, Hull 435, Cardiff 379 and the rest below that. Points to note are Leith and Harwich have done no exams for the last 2 years and Plymouth for a year.

                      I think it would be best to post this as either an article or a stickie in the colleges thread so it stays on view but in the meantime the results are here.

                      I will not post my immediate thoughts first as I do not want to influence others, also people should be aware that anyone can take their orals at any office so the results of one office are not totally the responsibility of a single college – however, as a general rule people go to the college nearest their examining office. Both Liverpool and Fleetwood use the Liverpool MCA Office.

                      So, here you go:

                      Results1.jpg

                      Results2.jpg

                      Results3.jpg

                      Results4.jpg

                      Results5.jpg

                      Results6.jpg

                      Results7.jpg
                      Last edited by Hatchorder; 8th May 2018, 08:02 PM. Reason: Some Numbers were wrong...
                      "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
                      "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

                      "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have my orals in Aberdeen

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by thady View Post
                          I have my orals in Aberdeen

                          So.... be the ONE! Good luck!

                          Ian
                          "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
                          "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

                          "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Very small numbers too, so percentage could vary widely on the lower numbers. Does not show if first or subsequent attempts. People could be from all over not necessarily the closet to the college where they were, some of the wait times were months so they may have chosen the centre which had the least wait time.
                            Im wondering if you asked for figures for one year for examiners they may not use the time clause? Sometimes with these FOI s you have to play the clever game.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Midge View Post
                              Very small numbers too, so percentage could vary widely on the lower numbers. Does not show if first or subsequent attempts. People could be from all over not necessarily the closet to the college where they were, some of the wait times were months so they may have chosen the centre which had the least wait time.
                              You are right, as I pointed out in the post the results are not necessarily indicative of the nearest college.....

                              and yes - the number of results for some are so small it does not give a true value.... Hull for 2016 /2017 for engineers was an exceptionally good year!

                              Just looking at the total numbers though I am struck by the disparity between Engineers and Deck results in total:

                              Deck OOW pass rate 54.2%
                              Deck Mates pass rate 55.2%
                              Deck Masters pass rate 60.7%

                              Eng OOW pass rate 77.1%
                              Eng 2nds pass rate 72.0%
                              Eng Chiefs pass rate 82.4%

                              Virtually 20% across the board..........

                              Now there are a huge number of jokes as to why this is the case - but I cannot understand such a difference in real life .......

                              No - they are not smarter!
                              No - they are not just examined on how they colour between the lines in the exam or hold the crayon!

                              I don't get it....

                              Ian
                              "Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester.
                              "Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear." - Buzzy Trent

                              "Careers at Sea" Ambassador - Experience of General Cargo, Combo ships, Tanker, Product Carrier, Gas Carrier, Ro-Ro, Reefer Container, Anchor Handlers.

                              Comment

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