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    so at what point will you admit that an A today is worth less than 20 years ago?
    i never said it wasn't - i prefer to think that it's simply different (be that easier or harder), i just think going on at us when there's absolutely nothing we can do about it does not and cannot help it situation - it just annoys a lot of people.

    What I've done is to show him all the resources which are available and how to make best use of them. It's what any good teacher should do. Not everybody seems to have the research skills to find out everything that's going. That's where a coach or a teacher comes in.
    But surely that's the job of the school? And besides which, having a teacher or coach finding resources for him (or anyone) because they don't have the research skill themselves is not, ultimately, helpful. A skill is something built up and aquired over time, it's not something you simply do, or do not, have.

    I had more homework in the lower VIth than either son seems to have had.
    That's surely down to the individual school, teacher and course, and really has nothing much to do witht he curriculum itself. i got next to no homework from one of my maths teachers and so much we could hardly keep up from the other...

    I took 5 [A levels]
    I would dare to suggest that you're the exception rather than the rule. Clearly you're very clever, and far superior to the rest of us who are too sane to take on 5 proper A Levels. And well done for avoiding General studies, as you so kindly pointed out - some of us didn't have a choice.

    By putting it in quotation marks, you're implying that I actually said that
    they weren't proper quotation marks, and i was rather implying that there is a question as to there value, not attributing anything to you.

    This sometimes makes people take every comment personally and in extremes.
    i don't think it's that which is annoying people, so much as your persistence on the point, without any kind of development to your argument. You just keep quoting people and repeating yourself - it gets a little irritating after a while.

    Apart from understanding that the first person pronoun...
    i was making a comparison between writing out full words and sentences, as opposed to text speak, and you know that full well. It's that kind of pointless comment that means this discussion is really going nowhere. I really don't think that not capitalising my "i"s is crime of the century, especially when posting quickly on the internet.

    By your token, shouldn't avoid teaching any subjects at A-level and simply allow the best students to teach themselves?
    i won't point out that there's a word missing there somewhere... :rolleyes: :p:

    I find it very irritating when people criticise students getting good grades in the current system. It is NOT these students who design this system (whereby the exams might be easier, or countless resits allowed) - it is adults of your age working for the exam boards that do that. Therefore it's not fair at all to belittle the achievements of current students as it's not their fault that the system has changed.
    my sentiments exactly
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    (Original post by Helenia)
    Nowadays there IS much more of a need to work consistently
    I suspect that this is true, which is why some schools choose to sit AS and A2 all at once. This also gets away from the problem that AS exams mean a large block of time lost to teaching.
    I find it very irritating when people criticise students getting good grades in the current system. ... it's not fair at all to belittle the achievements of current students
    Well, if you can quote where I've done either of those things, I'll apologise. I suspect you're just attacking the same straw man as the others.
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    (Original post by groovy_moose)
    having a teacher or coach finding resources for him (or anyone) because they don't have the research skill themselves is not, ultimately, helpful.
    Errm. Did you really mean that? That teachers shouldn't do anything for pupils at all? I think it's the job of the teacher to know what resources are available and all the rules of the system. I don't think that pupils have the time or skills at that point.
    A skill is something built up and aquired over time, it's not something you simply do, or do not, have.
    I'd say that a skill is a technique which can be reliably reproduced. Some people develop skills faster than others. Some need coaching to develop skills. Some need instruction in basic techniques.
    well done for avoiding General studies, as you so kindly pointed out - some of us didn't have a choice.
    Oh, it was compulsory at my school too - I just didn't see the point of it, so I didn't go. I don't think they cared that much, as I'd had a hard time to persuade them to let me do 4 A-levels (I added the 5th in the upper VIth) in the first place.
    i was making a comparison between writing out full words and sentences, as opposed to text speak, and you know that full well.
    Indeed so. I was poking at your self-importance, for which I apologise.
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    (Original post by grumballcake)
    Not really - it was only for courses where they knew they liked you, much like EE offers from Cambridge. I didn't meet anyone at medical school with less than ABB from memory
    Didn't you post something a page or so back about someone getting in with BCC/CCC? Can't remember if it was Cambridge or somewhere else, but that would never happen nowadays.

    (Original post by grumballcake)
    Yes, because a much higher proportion of people have them. Given that people aren't any more clever now than before (and vice versa) it is some of the best evidence that grades are easier to get. So universities have to keep raising the bar so that they only get the top 1-2% of each year that they want
    As I've said before, more people getting As does not mean they're easier to get; it means schools and teachers are improving and students are working harder. If, for example, a hospital kept getting better inspection results every year, even though people in general weren't any healthier than they were before, would you say it was due to improved standards or the inspections being easier to pass?

    (Original post by grumballcake)
    I had more homework in the lower VIth than either son seems to have had.
    Yeah, but that's just homework; under the old system you had no (or very few) exams that actually counted in the lower sixth, whereas we did, so we only had 2 terms to learn all the work and revise. You had 2 years!

    (Original post by grumballcake)
    I took 5 (no general studies either).
    There are always exceptions. Most people took 3 A-levels, whereas most now do 3 and an AS, although some obviously take 4, 5, 6 or more.
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    (Original post by kellywood_5)
    Didn't you post something a page or so back about someone getting in with BCC/CCC?
    No - I got an offer of CCC. I was well clear of my offer grades. That's why I said it was like an EE offer nowadays. The college didn't think I'd only get CCC for a moment, they simply didn't want us stressing about our A-levels.
    As I've said before, more people getting As does not mean they're easier to get; it means schools and teachers are improving and students are working harder.
    That's one interpretation, of course. It's also the one that vested interests are keen to propose as what's going on. However, it assumes that an A-level is a fixed level of knowledge and that there's a consistent standard which has to be met. For that to be the case, the curriculum would have to be identical over time and the method of examination identical.

    So, is there any non-A-level evidence which supports this case? Well, no. In fact there's evidence that standards at entry to university are falling, both anecdotal and where some universities have administered the same tests on entry to all students during the period. All those indications are that students are not being taught better. How hard they are working is more difficult to quantify. I'm not sure how we'd get statistics for it.

    If A-levels are a measure of what ability centile you're in, then the proportion of As would be constant. In the 70s, that's how it worked. The top x% got A, the next y% got B ... the bottom 14% failed. In industry and university entrance, that actually what we're interested in. What you know, is largely irrelevant because it won't generally match we we need you to know anyway. What we care about is how good at learning you are. Knowing where you are in the population is what we need.

    Your hospital example is misleading I think, since it equates a hospital inspection with general health. Unfortunately, only sick people go to hospital and they're a tiny minority of the general population.

    The question is really how you view the A-level. If it's a measure of standard knowledge, then we might expect better teaching and familiarity with the exams to improve average scores. However, that ought to reach a limit, if it's to give a meaningful discriminator between good candidates and poor ones. If everyone gets an A, what value is it?

    It's been my contention that the very best candidates actively value high standards and clear demarcations of ability. that's why international hockey playesr don't generally enjoy playing school hockey - it's just no challenge. The system lets the best candidates down. By making 100% results relatively commonplace, it devalues the achievement of the best. Those who get 100% raw marks should have a visible advantage over those who got 85% raw marks, shouldn't they? If not, why have grades at all?

    under the old system you had no (or very few) exams that actually counted in the lower sixth,
    Yes, that's true. AS exams have damaged school sport and drama which used to be the preserve of the lower VIth.
    we only had 2 terms to learn all the work and revise. You had 2 years!
    Except that AS exams are only maybe a quarter to a third of the material we did (particularly module 1), but count for half the A-level marks. I'm not sure that people are arguing that the current AS/A2 has the same amount of actual material to learn, are they? I'd estimate that they cover about 75% of the total stuff that we did, but I don't have hard evidence of that. We also had no coursework, so no chance of easier marks there either. (If you think that coursework isn't easy marks and want to be offended, I'll simply point you to the raw statistics, where coursework modules consustently outscore exams).

    With careful planning and some hard work for AS, you can go into A2 needing maybe only 55% of the raw marks to be sure of an A overall (the working is around on TSR). I don't think that this serves elite students very well.
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    I do agree with Mr Grumballcake that UMS is not doing the top students any favours. It should be very difficult or almost impossible to get 100% UMS - and yet, if you look on this forum, most people applying to Cambridge have at least a couple of 100% UMS papers. I even got 100% in one maths paper where I completely messed up one of the 7 questions and crossed it out! To my mind, it would make sense to make 100% equal to the top percentile of the country (if that is workable).

    Then again, we do have entrance papers now, like the BMAT for medicine and the LNAT for law. I think these are doing a pretty good job of choosing the best students. The GCSEs give a good indication of how good your memory is, and the entrance tests test ability to think critically and quickly.
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    i, personally, would welcome a more stringent and stretching exam system, and as i said earlier, the AEA i did is how i imagine the synoptic paper for the A Level should have been, but for now i'm stuck with the system currently in place and there's nothing i can do about that
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    (Original post by groovy_moose)
    i, personally, would welcome a more stringent and stretching exam system, and as i said earlier, the AEA i did is how i imagine the synoptic paper for the A Level should have been, but for now i'm stuck with the system currently in place and there's nothing i can do about that
    Yeah, the AEAs are very good actually. I think it's fair to say they stretch everyone! (I must confess, though, that I was starting to like the UMS safety net :p: )
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    (Original post by sbailey)
    Yeah, the AEAs are very good actually. I think it's fair to say they stretch everyone! (I must confess, though, that I was starting to like the UMS safety net :p: )
    Although you're not meant to know extra work for AEA, I still think some extra lessons and guidance would be necessary, and in some schools this is not available.
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    (Original post by sbailey)
    I was starting to like the UMS safety net :p: )
    Yes, I think that's the tension - the best students want to be seen to be the best. On the other hand, they don't want to risk their place at university by missing out. If AEA grades became the norm, life might be a bit easier for Oxbridge, but more stressful for students. Ultimately I think the move to post-A-level application would be in everyone's interests. People could take AEAs for extra credit without necessarily having the risk of their being included into an offer. Oxbridge would only make offers to the top x students (in their eyes), without having their current problems where they can end up with too many students.
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    Oh the joys of being the guinea pig year :rolleyes:

    AEAs barely developed (few schools offered them), only one resit allowed, Maths modules that were actually a challenge...and then to top it off, for our A2s, one of the exam boards publically admits it changed students' grades under pressure from the government - my friend made the front page of the Telegraph looking all sulky because her synoptic English paper had been graded a U, after getting As in every other one, bringing her down to a B overall so she missed her offer. And she wasn't the only one.

    Anyway, this might well be a more interesting discussion in General Uni so I might move it later.
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    (Original post by xx_ambellina_xx)
    Although you're not meant to know extra work for AEA, I still think some extra lessons and guidance would be necessary, and in some schools this is not available.
    There was a question in the Physics AEA I took which was based on something not in our syllabus. Everyone I knew just wrote garbage in the hope of a sleepy marker. The irony is that the AEA has to only test subject matter in every board's syllabus, which leaves a rather small core (and in this case they inadvertently stepped outside of it). Clearly some syllabuses will also cover a topic more thoroughly than others. I'm rather in favour of entrance tests like the BMAT and LNAT as opposed to relying on AEAs. I still think AEAs are challenging and worth taking, though, especially since they can form part of an alternative offer if you don't do as well in your A levels as expected.
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    Although you're not meant to know extra work for AEA, I still think some extra lessons and guidance would be necessary, and in some schools this is not available.
    well, i didn't have any extra advice or lessons etc - our teacher kinda said 'do you want to do the AEA?', so we said yes, and turned up... Although, it remains to be seen whether i pass or not... :rolleyes:

    Ultimately I think the move to post-A-level application would be in everyone's interests
    Now there's one thing we agree on... I think it wouldn't only be a benefit grades wise, but it would also mean that you could think about what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go, without having to do A Levels at the same time. They're quite enough stress as it is, without having to decide your future on top of that...
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    the irony is that the AEA has to only test subject matter in every board's syllabus, which leaves a rather small core
    I don't know about that one, but the one i did had loads and loads of questions, many of which i couldn't really have answered because they weren't on our specification, but there were a good few that we could - you're just supposed to find those that you can. Then again, i don't know how the physics one works.
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    (Original post by groovy_moose)
    well, i didn't have any extra advice or lessons etc - our teacher kinda said 'do you want to do the AEA?', so we said yes, and turned up... Although, it remains to be seen whether i pass or not... :rolleyes:
    Can you fail AEA? I thought it was Merit or Distinction, or nothing.


    (Original post by groovy_moose)
    Now there's one thing we agree on... I think it wouldn't only be a benefit grades wise, but it would also mean that you could think about what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go, without having to do A Levels at the same time. They're quite enough stress as it is, without having to decide your future on top of that...
    I think most teachers are of this opinion too. What would happen with university terms, though? Not that I'm disagreeing, but I hate to imagine how much pressure it would be to finish the first year of medicine in less time. Or do you effectively have a year out?
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    either everyone would have to take a year out - which in my opinion would be no bad thing - or you could shift the university terms so the uni year starts in january - which is great in theory but i don't know how you would achieve the changeover...

    as for the AEA, i was kinda counting merit and distinction as 'pass' - i'll just ignore it if i don't get either of them...
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    (Original post by groovy_moose)
    I don't know about that one, but the one i did had loads and loads of questions, many of which i couldn't really have answered because they weren't on our specification, but there were a good few that we could - you're just supposed to find those that you can. Then again, i don't know how the physics one works.
    OK, I am only telling you what my physics teacher told us at the time.
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    (Original post by grumballcake)
    No - I got an offer of CCC. I was well clear of my offer grades. That's why I said it was like an EE offer nowadays. The college didn't think I'd only get CCC for a moment, they simply didn't want us stressing about our A-levels.
    That's one interpretation, of course. It's also the one that vested interests are keen to propose as what's going on. However, it assumes that an A-level is a fixed level of knowledge and that there's a consistent standard which has to be met. For that to be the case, the curriculum would have to be identical over time and the method of examination identical.

    So, is there any non-A-level evidence which supports this case? Well, no. In fact there's evidence that standards at entry to university are falling, both anecdotal and where some universities have administered the same tests on entry to all students during the period. All those indications are that students are not being taught better. How hard they are working is more difficult to quantify. I'm not sure how we'd get statistics for it.

    If A-levels are a measure of what ability centile you're in, then the proportion of As would be constant. In the 70s, that's how it worked. The top x% got A, the next y% got B ... the bottom 14% failed. In industry and university entrance, that actually what we're interested in. What you know, is largely irrelevant because it won't generally match we we need you to know anyway. What we care about is how good at learning you are. Knowing where you are in the population is what we need.

    Your hospital example is misleading I think, since it equates a hospital inspection with general health. Unfortunately, only sick people go to hospital and they're a tiny minority of the general population.

    The question is really how you view the A-level. If it's a measure of standard knowledge, then we might expect better teaching and familiarity with the exams to improve average scores. However, that ought to reach a limit, if it's to give a meaningful discriminator between good candidates and poor ones. If everyone gets an A, what value is it?

    It's been my contention that the very best candidates actively value high standards and clear demarcations of ability. that's why international hockey playesr don't generally enjoy playing school hockey - it's just no challenge. The system lets the best candidates down. By making 100% results relatively commonplace, it devalues the achievement of the best. Those who get 100% raw marks should have a visible advantage over those who got 85% raw marks, shouldn't they? If not, why have grades at all?

    Yes, that's true. AS exams have damaged school sport and drama which used to be the preserve of the lower VIth.
    Except that AS exams are only maybe a quarter to a third of the material we did (particularly module 1), but count for half the A-level marks. I'm not sure that people are arguing that the current AS/A2 has the same amount of actual material to learn, are they? I'd estimate that they cover about 75% of the total stuff that we did, but I don't have hard evidence of that. We also had no coursework, so no chance of easier marks there either. (If you think that coursework isn't easy marks and want to be offended, I'll simply point you to the raw statistics, where coursework modules consustently outscore exams).

    With careful planning and some hard work for AS, you can go into A2 needing maybe only 55% of the raw marks to be sure of an A overall (the working is around on TSR). I don't think that this serves elite students very well.
    Wow, how much of an arse are you. It's all very easy to sit there and say how easy exams are getting, and when you can prove that you can sit them and get full marks then maybe I'd start listening to you. Sixth formers have to work really hard to get their grades, and they haven't picked the system, it's just the way it is. To sit there and belittle their achievements seems a bit pathetic to me. I pity your children; no matter how well they do at school to come home to you and hear "well, they exams are very easy, I'm not surprised" :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by grumballcake)
    Let me start by saying that I have children going through the system. I have actively participated in coaching two of them through their exams. So far, that's covered RS, Economics, Chemistry, Business Studies and Psychology. I only studied one of those subjects at A level (although I do have later qualifications in two others) so I can't compare like-for-like in all of them. When I picked up the A-level chemistry stuff, I was amazed how much I knew, compared with my perceptions. I was expecting that I'd really struggle after a 30 year gap. As it was, much of the stuff was from O-level (i.e. the old GCSE) and many of the questions would lead you by the hand to the correct answer. So I could both mark papers and set new questions with only a glance at the textbook. Am I a genius, or is it just easier?
    Maybe I'm looking at the wrong subjects, but in most of them, you only need around 80% of the raw marks to get 100% UMS. In those far-off days, you'd need more than that just to get an A.

    What you have is a vast array of resources that few use. You have a complete, detailed marking scheme, for example (nope, we didn't have those). You also have the reports of the examiners for each paper, which says what they were looking for and how candidates answered papers. That stuff is pure gold for getting marks, but how many people actually read it?
    Well, you're probably in a minority there. Just look around TSR for evidence. U wll no when u c it.
    I agree it could be frustrating, but there are a few possible explanations you haven't addressed. You might not have used all the resources at your disposal, for example. You might not know how to read specifications or marking schemes. Yet, lots of people on TSR have got 100% marks. So are they all super-bright? Or maybe, just maybe, you aren't as bright as they are, or don't work as hard as you need to. It's much easier to attack the messenger, though, isn't it?

    I've not met an A-level student who doesn't say that they're working hard. Yet compare the attitude of those who get to Cambridge and find out what hard work really is. A-levels are a walk in the park compared with getting a first at Oxbridge, but you have exactly the same amount of raw intelligence in each case. The difference is the intensity and the number of hours you have to spend.
    Nor could I, but that's not what I claimed, was it? You see, you don't read as carefully as you might. 100% marks come from attention to detail. I already had an A grade at Chemistry from 30 years ago. Yet, I know I couldn't have taken my A-level papers again, even a few years afterwards.
    Sadly that reads as a high pitched whine like Harry Enfield's character Kevin. I haven't said that your achievements are 'meaningless', have I? Getting into Cambridge is still a great achievement, whatever A-level grades you obtain. In my day I got offers for medicine with BCC and CCC; now it would be AAAa. You need higher grades because those grades are easier to get than they were. The people who get top grades should be proud of their achievements. I'll certainly be proud if #2 son comes home with AAA on August 18.
    Surely the grades are higher because more people go to university, thus more competition for places, rather than because the exams are easier?
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    (Original post by xx_ambellina_xx)
    Surely the grades are higher because more people go to university, thus more competition for places, rather than because the exams are easier?
    Yeah, but the reason more people are going to university is because of more social pressure - it's the thing to do nowadays. If the extra people applying to university were all highly academic then this argument would have more weight, but I'm not convinced there is more competition to get into Cambridge now than 30 years ago. I'm not talking about the applicants per place ratio, which can be highly misleading, but the quality of the average student now compared to in the past.
 
 
 
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