URL – Different Definitions!

  • Elizabeth Allum

    Afternoon All,

    With exams fast approaching this was annoying me, may be of interest to people. I emailed SQA with the following question as my N5 pupils were in heated arguments with each another…..

    This may seem like a simple question but it is driving me crazy. SQA states on their website (http://www.sqa.org.uk/e-learning/INetCon101CD/page_04.htm) that URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator yet the SQA endorsed textbooks (How To Pass National 5 Computing Science) state URL stands for Universal Resource Locator. Could you please clear up if SQA will be accepting these as interchangeable for the exam or if there is one they can commit to?

    Uniform is correct. Just because sqa endorses a book doesn’t mean they have proof read it and had it corrected. The Principal assessor informs me that universal would probably be marked as incorrect.



    Thanks for this important clarification, Elizabeth – I think that in all cases of this type the SQA arrangements documents and any subsequent ‘notification of changes’ should be your guide. If there is a definition or appropriate technical term in these then that’s what the examining team will use.


    The term most commonly used is uniform however universal is a term that is also used in some definitions. Uniform is the better term however I would hope that universal would be accepted as it appears in many academic documents about the web.  When you look back at the evolutions of the term URI in the world of hypermedia Universal Resource Locator tends to refer to hyperlinks on any platform (Hypercard, Amsterdam, Dexter model etc.) and Uniform Resource Locator tends to refer to Internet technologies (the inclusion of the protocol a key part of this). But it varies and they can appear interchangeable.

    If the office SQA response is to accept Uniform Resource Locator then folks should teach to that (but I’d like to see both accepted).


    Enrico Vanni

    @Elizabeth – it is disappointing to hear that the principal assessor has stated that ‘Universal Resource Locator’ as an answer to the definition of URL would ‘probably’ be marked incorrect, for two reasons. The inconclusive answer leaves the doubt in place, but in addition the rigid adherence to SQA definitions ONLY as acceptable answers means that real-world correct answers given by candidates may not be given credit. I appreciate that reforms to processes designed to streamline the marking of exams has led to this rigid approach, but there needs to be a process that ensures all correct answers are always accepted.

    This is the second example of this issue cropping up in National 5 Computing. I and others have already highlighted the issue with data types within the context of programming – the type ‘single’ being specifically rejected in marking guidelines for exams because it is not contained within the course guidelines even though it is an industry standard term for a 32-bit floating point number (the term double meaning a 64-bit FP number with greater accuracy and precision as per Higher Computing and a valid teaching point for the course). The term ‘real’ which is the only one accepted in the context is actually a mathematical term (and factually incorrect as computers cannot store the overwhelming majority of real numbers precisely).

    It grinds with me that I have to tell candidates to walk the line of SQA ‘acceptable’ answers and steer themselves away from ones they have learned and understood by their own experiences. Not very CfE, is it?!

    Bill Sargent

    The assessment arrangements document for National 5 gives URL without expanding. Therefore pupils should not be asked to give an expansion in the exams. The fact that a SQA website for HN Computing has an expansion should not mean that the expansion is required for a different course that doesn’t specify it.

    It is difficult enough to guess what the SQA want without taking content from other courses.


    It’s Uniform Resource Locator, according to the original RFC, BCS Glossary, and Tim Berners Lee: https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1738.txt

    Though somewhat confusingly, the w3C (who should be the ones that know) refer to this in one document as universal, and link to this file…

    What really matters is that this sort of misunderstanding applies to much, much bigger things, where the description in the course support notes doesn’t make it easy to narrow down the possible answers. CSS at Higher is a prime example as pupils can be asked to exemplify it but we currently do not know which properties can be used (and know from last year that they must be spelled exactly correctly).

    I’d love to spend hours debating with pupils which ones are most useful/necessary, as I would love to discuss any ambiguity between Uniform and Universal Resource Locators, but there isn’t enough time to do so. We would benefit greatly from detailed course support notes on things where ambiguity is time consuming and unhelpful for learners.

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