media hype about results... Watch

InnocentEyes
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#1
does it annoy you?

as in, the constant headlines about A levels getting easier, top grades not being worthwhile etc...
and do you reckon you're biased by the grades you got, if you've just received your results?

i.e. if you got A's with very high UMS e.g. 280's, 290's, does it irritate you that thousands of other people will have the same grades but far lower scores?
or if you were disappointed by your results, are you lining up to murder the supporters of the 'dumbing down' school of thought with an axe? :p:

and most importantly...what should we do about the ageing armchair critics of the exams we have no choice but to take...
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generalebriety
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****ing kill them all.
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Autumn Child
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yes, its really annoying - even though they pretend to congratulate everyone first

it strikes me that most of them dont have a clue what they're taking about - i havnt heared anyone (including MP's) talk of the distinction between making a sylabus (sp?) easier and altering the grade boundaries.

i dont think a-levels are too easy - but if they really want to make it harder i really think they dont need to change the course itself, all theyd need do to would be make it harder to pass (like 75% of raw marks rather than often 65%-70%)

does anyone think so?
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kellywood_5
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I was disappointed with my results, so if I'd come across anyone who said that to me on results day, I'm sure I would have been capable of killing them with my bare hands :mad: I honestly couldn't have worked harder over the past 2 years and still only got AABC, so I really don't need people who haven't even taken any modern A-level exams and therefore don't have a clue what they're talking about telling me how easy they are nowadays! The pass rate has increased because of students working harder due to increased pressure and competition, teaching having improved and more resources such as the Internet being available. Admittedly exams are very different now compared to say 20 years ago, but that doesn't make them any easier.
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henryt
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Markschemes have become too prescriptive, and so it's invetible that people will churn out more model answers, regardless of their knowledge of the subject.

But that still doesn't mean that our work was "for nothing" as I heard ITV put it. I wanted to hit some of the ignorant people on that set.
"Oh - In my day exams were a lot harder"
"And what grades did you get?"
"I failed all of them, but I would have got As in today's exams"

Urgh! How frustrating!
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Karvel
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I think the purported "easiness" of A-levels now differs between subjects.

My business teacher once showed us a Business Studies A-level paper from the 1980s and it was SO much easier than the ones we have now.. it was all broken down into little sub-sections and had a 2 mark, a 4 mark, a 6 mark and a 9 mark questions... on an A-LEVEL paper! Now we have two 6 mark questions, a 9 mark question and two 15 mark 'mini-essay' questions... MUCH EASIER :rolleyes:
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charlihedge
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Sorry. Afraid I am one of those armchair critics!

As a 47 year old who took an AS and A2 level a couple of years ago for fun and because I seemed to be getting forgetful(!), I found the whole experience much easier than when I took my original A levels in the late 70s.I also did the exams after receiving only half the teaching time of the sixth formers I studied with, not doing any homework ( I work so I simply made up for the missing lesson time each week).

Why?

Firstly you now have positive marking- credit for valid points but no deduction for incorrect ones, even if this shows you don't really understand.

Secondly you have coursework, capable of being revised and to which you can devote as much time as you want.

Next the courses are modular, so you never have to know everything at once in case a question comes up, and you can resit to maximise marks.

Many (eg Science AS/A") have "SATs format" small questions, and not detailed SA questions as in past decades, when depth of knowledge was tested more than breadth.

And finally, until 1986 30% of all A level candidates were failed automatically no matter what their score. Today it is an exam you can hardly fail.

Statistics? Universities and employers repeatedly complain they cannot tell the brilliant from the average. In the 70s about 10-20% of all students stayed on to take A levels, 30% of them failed, and considerably less than 25% of successful candidates were awarded grade A. Now 40-50% take them, hardly anyone fails, and 25% get an A. This means more now get As then even passed A levels pre-1986. So one in 30 gets 3As! In my days(!) it was more like one in 3000.

I know students work very very hard now, possibly harder than we did, but A levels are not supposed to reward hard work, just academic ability. I believe vocational qualifications more aptly reward hard work. (I am in the position of just completing an NVQ3, as well as having experience of both 'old' and 'new' A levels, before you criticise, which I sure most of you are not.) I'm also the parent of a bright, but not brilliant, 17 yr old who just got 5 As at AS level Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and ICT and worked tremendously hard.

I congratulate you all for your efforts, but have an evidence based opinion that A levels are now easier.

Sorry!
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sebyevans
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Exclusive to all papers:
Students recieve A-Level results
More passes and A Grades than ever before
Accusations of dumbing down
Immediate government denail
Jim Knight (schools minister) Announces sciences will be reformed so more people will take them (i.e. dumbing down)
September '06 - new set of pupils start A-Level courses
following August - Students recieve A-Level results
back to beginning

Same every year :P and will continue to be so for ages to come!
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qexy-loz
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I'm not entirely sure which A-Levels you took, BUT:

Secondly you have coursework, capable of being revised and to which you can devote as much time as you want.
In 2 of the A-Levels I took (Psychology and Biology), it wasn't a case of 'devote as much time as you want'. Psychology was slightly less strict, but still required it to be completed in a set number of weeks. Biology coursework was done in class, in test conditions and was timed. Whatever was not written, was just not done, and therefore not sent off for marking.

Next the courses are modular, so you never have to know everything at once in case a question comes up, and you can resit to maximise marks.
Also, although tests may be modular, several A-Levels require you to transfer knowledge across modules in order to show understanding and application. There is also a synoptic unit (in Biology and Psychology at least) which requires knowledge to be drawn from all areas of both AS and A2 modules in order to write essays and complete questions. And yes, you 'have to know everything at once in case a question comes up'.

Many (eg Science AS/A") have "SATs format" small questions, and not detailed SA questions as in past decades, when depth of knowledge was tested more than breadth.
Psychology AS and A2 exams require at least 3 essays for each module. Biology also requires longer answer questions, and several essay questions i.e. the synoptic exam.

Also, as a more 'mature' learner, you may have picked up knowledge over the years which have helped you to complete questions.
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InnocentEyes
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hi charlihedge!

nice to have a real live armchair critic on TSR! :p:

actually, I agree with you that it is easier to get high grades.
I merely take issue with

a) the fact that no-one differentiates between the difficulty of the actual material learned, and how easy it is to get top grades...
in my opinion the actual A-level courses are not dumbed down at all, it has just become very easy to do well without really having a complete understanding of them...because of scaling up to UMS marks, coursework, the module system, positive marking...basically everything you mentioned...

and b) the fact that many people have the audacity to claim that young people are actually becoming less intelligent and hard working...the exam system isn't our fault!

to be honest, I'm probably one of the people who should be angry with the system, for not differentiating between someone like me who has A's with very high actual marks, and someone who barely scraped past the grade boundary. but sometimes I get the feeling that the issue gets hijacked by people who just want to go back to the fifties...
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charlihedge
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Hi quexy loz (sorry if spelling incorrect)

I think you will find that the deadlines for submission of coursework depends very much on when your school or college sets and decides they need it in to mark(subject to the overall exam board deadline) Sixth form college I attended gave us all year, but my child has had numerous AS and GCSE coursework items set by school with very short deadlines. However, within the time allowed you can manage your own time to devote as much or as little as you think fit, which cannot be done when all written and practical (eg science) work must be completed under timed exam conditions.

I acknowledge that many subjects have a synoptic paper- my most recent A level did- but I did not revise the AS level work prior to taking it as it required more of an overview to compare and contrast. I got an A at both As and A2, which would be A* if the new system ever comes in. My original A levels weren't great: A, C and D.

And no I did not gain any knowledge during the intervening 20+years since I was previously in education, as I opted for a subject I had never come across or had the chance to study. As I said, it was for fun ( and to inspire my daughter!)

I think adopting the USA system of SAT (I believe its more a sort of intelligence/aptitude test along the lines now used for law/medicine entries) for UNi admissions, on top of A levels to show prior learning, would be fair to distinguish between those with potential but at crap schools, and those who have achieved due to intense tutoring. I wouldn't recommend the entire USA diploma/IB system as they seems to be so broad as to encompass subjects many don't need at the expense of solid subject grounding (eg multiple science and maths subjects). Sorry if I'm factually wrong about this bit as I haven't read up because it doesn't affect my daughter. Again 'in my day' (! oldie)it was acknowledged that UNIi students in the USA were one year behind the UK because of their broad based high school system.

Sorry not to agree with you all, but I can only base thoughts on my current and past experience. would be intersted to hear some debate about standards.

Bye
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EnglishDude
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The modular system theory does work, but only to a certain extent as one cannot sit all the papers early, e.g. synoptic papers. Thus, you've only got that one chance, unless you retake whole year.
Even when modular retakes were restricted there were still 'record' pass rates and the mod. system was criticised even then.
As regards pass rates do not listen to the media. A-level comprises two year's work. If a student fails the first year, in our school at least, they are not allowed to study that subject to A2. Thus, most of those who sit A2 exams are likely to pass (if you see what I mean)....
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EnglishDude
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I do get really frustrated that someone in your class also gets an A, but only just scrapes it, whilst you have scored full marks on every mod!!! There needs to be stricter distinction so those that have performed better get the credit they deserve.
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BovineBeast
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(Original post by charlihedge)
Sorry. Afraid I am one of those armchair critics!

As a 47 year old who took an AS and A2 level a couple of years ago for fun and because I seemed to be getting forgetful(!), I found the whole experience much easier than when I took my original A levels in the late 70s.I also did the exams after receiving only half the teaching time of the sixth formers I studied with, not doing any homework ( I work so I simply made up for the missing lesson time each week).
Question: did you try redoing your 70s style A-levels, to make sure that it wasn't just as easy? Because, as I'm sure you know, the memory cheats. Additionally, after 30 years it's quite possible that you're more adept at, well, working in general. Assuming that 'standards have slipped' is not the only possible explanation.

But I can't really make a judgement without knowing what subject you took anyway.
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beautifulbigmacs
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tbh, the statistics are taken out of context. Eg a 98% pass rate or whatever it was for a levels could merely mean that everyone got an E, and i know lots of people who got lower grades, no way are these exams easy!
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stratomaster
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It annoys me how the media makes it out like everyone gets As or something. When they show people opening their results they always have 80 ****ing A grades.
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worldwide
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two main reasons why more people get As now:
1) coursework. It's completely stupid. In some modules, you can review it as many times as you like.
2) more 'easy' and vocational subjects now, which raises the overall number of people getting As.

additionally, there are loads more resources you can use now, principally the internet.
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michaelbenson
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(Original post by BovineBeast)
Question: did you try redoing your 70s style A-levels, to make sure that it wasn't just as easy? Because, as I'm sure you know, the memory cheats. Additionally, after 30 years it's quite possible that you're more adept at, well, working in general. Assuming that 'standards have slipped' is not the only possible explanation.

But I can't really make a judgement without knowing what subject you took anyway.
It is impossible to actually compare the two examinations regardless of whether they have been taken at the same time, or 30 years ago. Questions, assessment objectives, paper styles and of course pass rates will all differ vastly - this isn't because the examinations are getting easier just that they are developing and changing to conform with a different society. Of course modern society seems more simplistic and easier to contemplate, because this is in essence what we live and breath and therefore we should be expected to have a better general knowledge. Whereas taking examinations based on 30 years ago will have a completely different set of objectives and will be expecting you have a certain degree of general knowledge to tackle these questions. Which is just simply not available to those not living within that time period.

Everyone points out that Mathematics papers from 30 years ago deal with content that is much more difficult to attempt than that available at the moment. But that is completely irrelevant to the actual relative difficultly of those papers in comparison to those being offered in today's exam rooms. Students 30 years ago would have been taught to match this specification, and for whatever reason, most likely that of it being completely impractical, the decision was taken to remove this aspect from the specification. This doesn't mean that examiners are "dumbing down" tests, just that they are adapting them to be more relevant to today, and not 30 years ago. Which is how it should be, right?

I thought it would be nice to point out that whenever coursework is mentioned at my College as an optional alternative to taking an examination, no ONE candidate within my class (bar myself, who opted to take both the coursework and examination module ) decided to take coursework. This misconception that coursework modules are in essence guaranteed grade A results is pretty misleading.
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kellywood_5
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(Original post by worldwide)
two main reasons why more people get As now:
1) coursework. It's completely stupid. In some modules, you can review it as many times as you like.
2) more 'easy' and vocational subjects now, which raises the overall number of people getting As.

additionally, there are loads more resources you can use now, principally the internet.
1) Just because you can take your time on coursework, use resources to help you and make corrections if you need to, that doesn't mean it's easy to do well. Examiners also seem to be much harsher on coursework modules than exams and a lot seems to have been marked down by examiners recently. I'll give you 2 examples from my own results. In sociology, I spent ages on my coursework and made lots of corrections as I went along, but still ended up with 63/90, a scraped B. Yet in one of the A2 exams, I got 86/90, a high A. In French, I also worked hard on my coursework and made corrections to it, but again I only got 63/90. In the written exam, however, I got 101/120, an A. Coursework doesn't necessarily equal better grades.
2) Which I'm sure is why about twice as many people get As in maths as they do in media studies, supposedly a doss :rolleyes:
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2late
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Exams are becoming easier. I found my Physics A level past papers from the 90's to be much harder than the ones from 2001+ onwards.
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