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Should the grading of A levels be changed? Watch

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    I am convinced, as are many senior academics, that A levels have got steadily easier over the last 20 years, but especially since 2000 onwards when the AS level was introduced universally. Does anyone agree that A levels should award grades by raising the grade boundary, (i.e. A = 90%, B = 80%, C = 70%, D = 60%, E = 50%, Pass = 40%). The ''Pass'' would be in effect a new grade. Under this system the A* would be scrapped.
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    No, that's complete nonsense and it wouldn't change a thing. All that's doing is calling an old A* an A, an old A a B, etc. They still mean the exact same thing, they've just got a different name. On top of that, so much of exam success hinges on exam technique these days that the A boundary would simply be penalising those who can't conform to the rigid, regimented exam game.
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    I think the grades should be scrapped all together and you should just be given a percentage. This makes it much easier for universities and employers to compare candidates if two people have AAA, one may have 3 80%s and the other may have 3 89%s.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    I am convinced, as are many senior academics, that A levels have got steadily easier over the last 20 years, but especially since 2000 onwards when the AS level was introduced universally. Does anyone agree that A levels should award grades by raising the grade boundary, (i.e. A = 90%, B = 80%, C = 70%, D = 60%, E = 50%, Pass = 40%). The ''Pass'' would be in effect a new grade. Under this system the A* would be scrapped.
    I don't understand how changing an A* to an A and so on will change anything. Also, in recent years, have you sat an A Level exam?
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    Your system changes nothing as Chlorophile outlined.

    If we want a real change in the education system, we have to change the education system. Whether it's exams getting easier, or students get better at exam technique, the end result is the same - children, manufactured in exam factories, who just plug in different numbers and words. Or memorize essays. Etc.

    Scrap A-levels altogether. Move to a system, or qualification, which actually teaches students to think, and teaches them academic skills. A qualification where the skills aren't based on just rote learning and exam technique. And a qualification where a broad range of study is encouraged, not depth, so that 15 year old kids don't have to decide what field they want to enter (or more worryingly, lock themselves out of fields they don't even know about) for the rest of their lives.

    We're undergoing a skills shortage at the worst possible time. Creating a workforce that has more flexibility (and real skills) will help that more than just changing the grading of the current system.
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    I was in the last year group to do the old A levels. The boundary for an A grade in some subjects was around 70% (or around 18/25 on an essay). The problem isn't the grade boundaries. It is that the exams are easier, there is a modular system rather than one set of exams after two years and the possibility to repeat exams to get the desired grade.
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    (Original post by Chlorophile)
    No, that's complete nonsense and it wouldn't change a thing. All that's doing is calling an old A* an A, an old A a B, etc. They still mean the exact same thing, they've just got a different name. On top of that, so much of exam success hinges on exam technique these days that the A boundary would simply be penalising those who can't conform to the rigid, regimented exam game.
    There was a time (around 1996) when getting BBB was enough to get into a few medical and dental schools in the UK. Today you need A*AA/AAA just to get into the weakest medical schools, plus the possibility of passing the GMAT exam or equivalent.

    Likewise, to get into Oxbridge in 1996 you could get in comfortably with AAB for virtually all courses. Today you need to get A*AA/AAA as a minimum, on top of the interview and possible entrance exam.

    I am of the belief that needing to get 90% to get a grade A overall would be a more reliable, and more demanding, challenge to students than having to get an A* in one subject as part of a conditional offer. The grades AAB under the new proposed system would be more difficult to achieve than AAA under the current system. Most competitive courses ask for just one A* as part of the offer, which makes the entry requirements a bit lop-sided.

    The A* could potentially be kept for those students who score 90% or higher in every single exam and coursework component they sit at both AS & A2. Personally, I am not keen on this grade, for the reason I gave above, it makes the entry requirements irregular.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    There was a time (around 1996) when getting BBB was enough to get into a few medical and dental schools in the UK. Today you need A*AA/AAA just to get into the weakest medical schools, plus the possibility of passing the GMAT exam or equivalent.

    Likewise, to get into Oxbridge in 1996 you could get in comfortably with AAB for virtually all courses. Today you need to get A*AA/AAA as a minimum, on top of the interview and possible entrance exam.

    I am of the belief that needing to get 90% to get a grade A overall would be a more reliable, and more demanding, challenge to students than having to get an A* in one subject as part of a conditional offer. The grades AAB under the new proposed system would be more difficult to achieve than AAA under the current system. Most competitive courses ask for just one A* as part of the offer, which makes the entry requirements a bit lop-sided.

    The A* could potentially be kept for those students who score 90% or higher in every single exam and coursework component they sit at both AS & A2. Personally, I am not keen on this grade, for the reason I gave above, it makes the entry requirements irregular.
    So how is A*AA more lopsided and why do you dislike that more than AAB, for both it's two of one grade and one of the other..


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    (Original post by tryrevise)
    So how is A*AA more lopsided and why do you dislike that more than AAB, for both it's two of one grade and one of the other..


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    It is down to how the A* is currently awarded. To get it you need to attain 90% in all A2 modules at the first attempt, so at AS you can afford to get a low grade A and get away with it. Secondly, when a university asks for A*AA, (80% at AS with 90% at A2, 80%, 80%) it implies you have to excel at any one subject you are studying, and that only excelling at A2 in that subject matters.

    Under the new proposed grading system, getting AAB would mean scoring 90%, 90%, 80%, which indicates excelling at more than just one subject, and throughout AS & A2. I wouldn't expect oversubscribed elite universities to relax the grade requirements for competitive courses if the boundary was stretched, nor to ask for an A* to be necessary as part of the grading.

    Also I don't like the brutal nature of how the A* is awarded, as just one bad exam day at A2 can ruin getting the A* forever. What I have proposed is not as brutal, but demands consistency across the course to get the top grade, i.e. average 90% across AS & A2, but a bad exam day where you get e.g. 86% won't be the final nail in the coffin.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    I am convinced, as are many senior academics, that A levels have got steadily easier over the last 20 years, but especially since 2000 onwards when the AS level was introduced universally. Does anyone agree that A levels should award grades by raising the grade boundary, (i.e. A = 90%, B = 80%, C = 70%, D = 60%, E = 50%, Pass = 40%). The ''Pass'' would be in effect a new grade. Under this system the A* would be scrapped.
    Surely that isn't the case as the grades are normalised and converted into UMS marks (so a certain proportion of candidates gets each grade)? I'd love to know exactly how the UMS system works. Changing the names of the grades changes nothing though.

    (Original post by Bloxorus)
    I think the grades should be scrapped all together and you should just be given a percentage. This makes it much easier for universities and employers to compare candidates if two people have AAA, one may have 3 80%s and the other may have 3 89%s.
    Fair enough, the last digit could always be dropped if we want simpler numbers, with a 10 being no less than 100%.

    Having said that, plenty of countries (e.g. France) work on a simple pass/fail.
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    (Original post by O133)
    Surely that isn't the case as the grades are normalised and converted into UMS marks (so a certain proportion of candidates gets each grade)? I'd love to know exactly how the UMS system works. Changing the names of the grades changes nothing though.
    The awarding of grades under the old A level grading system worked so that only an X amount of students could be awarded the top grade. I have not heard that this has been used in the last 20 years, nor do I think any government could re-introduce it without fierce opposition.

    The A* was introduced to help identify candidates considered top of the class at A2 alone. What I am proposing is making the A grade being as difficult to get as it was 20 years ago, by awarding this grade to those who on average achieve 90% over the AS/A2 course combined. There is a clear distinction here, and I seriously doubt universities would object to this change.
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    No, it should simply be harder to achieve a given percentage. There's nothing particularly wrong with the boundaries.

    (Original post by Quantex)
    I was in the last year group to do the old A levels. The boundary for an A grade in some subjects was around 70% (or around 18/25 on an essay). The problem isn't the grade boundaries. It is that the exams are easier, there is a modular system rather than one set of exams after two years and the possibility to repeat exams to get the desired grade.
    I don't see anything wrong with the ability to repeat modules, either. I think it's a good thing. It takes the pressure off each exam a bit, even if you don't in fact resit, and you still have to be as good to get the grade the second time around.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    The awarding of grades under the old A level grading system worked so that only an X amount of students could be awarded the top grade. I have not heard that this has been used in the last 20 years, nor do I think any government could re-introduce it without fierce opposition.

    The A* was introduced to help identify candidates considered top of the class at A2 alone. What I am proposing is making the A grade being as difficult to get as it was 20 years ago, by awarding this grade to those who on average achieve 90% over the AS/A2 course combined. There is a clear distinction here, and I seriously doubt universities would object to this change.
    I am under the impression that the current system has replaced "number" with "proportion", which seems fair if the population is not constant.

    OK, I wouldn't be totally opposed to that but it would be easier to just redefine the A*, seeing as the grades could be called whatever you like.

    I'd still prefer % UMS though.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    There was a time (around 1996) when getting BBB was enough to get into a few medical and dental schools in the UK. Today you need A*AA/AAA just to get into the weakest medical schools, plus the possibility of passing the GMAT exam or equivalent.

    Likewise, to get into Oxbridge in 1996 you could get in comfortably with AAB for virtually all courses. Today you need to get A*AA/AAA as a minimum, on top of the interview and possible entrance exam.

    I am of the belief that needing to get 90% to get a grade A overall would be a more reliable, and more demanding, challenge to students than having to get an A* in one subject as part of a conditional offer. The grades AAB under the new proposed system would be more difficult to achieve than AAA under the current system. Most competitive courses ask for just one A* as part of the offer, which makes the entry requirements a bit lop-sided.

    The A* could potentially be kept for those students who score 90% or higher in every single exam and coursework component they sit at both AS & A2. Personally, I am not keen on this grade, for the reason I gave above, it makes the entry requirements irregular.
    Why? How does someone scoring 90% show anything about how well they understand a subject? It's perfectly possible for someone to get above 90% in AS exams (which is what universities base their decisions on) without having a proper understanding of what they're dealing with, just as it's possible for a genius to get much lower because they've not cracked exam technique.

    (Original post by Bloxorus)
    I think the grades should be scrapped all together and you should just be given a percentage. This makes it much easier for universities and employers to compare candidates if two people have AAA, one may have 3 80%s and the other may have 3 89%s.
    But the exams we've got are already broken. There's no way of knowing whether someone with 89% is better than someone with 80%. Using percentages would simply reward those who know how to play the exams game. I completely agree that the current system doesn't differentiate properly between students but the solution is creating a system that does, not trying to fix an inherently flawed fallacy.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    I am convinced, as are many senior academics, that A levels have got steadily easier over the last 20 years, but especially since 2000 onwards when the AS level was introduced universally. Does anyone agree that A levels should award grades by raising the grade boundary, (i.e. A = 90%, B = 80%, C = 70%, D = 60%, E = 50%, Pass = 40%). The ''Pass'' would be in effect a new grade. Under this system the A* would be scrapped.
    Make exams harder? maybe
    Raise the boundaries? no

    That's no good. And it affects everyone in exactly the same way, which is counter to the point. A levels should have a few questions at the end which are a real step up, so that better students can differentiate themselves. That's off the top of my head.
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    (Original post by Chlorophile)
    But the exams we've got are already broken. There's no way of knowing whether someone with 89% is better than someone with 80%. Using percentages would simply reward those who know how to play the exams game. I completely agree that the current system doesn't differentiate properly between students but the solution is creating a system that does, not trying to fix an inherently flawed fallacy.
    The reality is A levels will never be made ''harder'' to any significant degree in the traditional subjects. There are enough people struggling at A level Maths, Physics and Chemistry as it is. My focus has been more on the so called ''soft'' subjects such as Media studies, Psychology, PE, Home Economics etc. In order to make it a fair level playing field, these subjects need to be comparable in difficulty to obtain the top grades as the more demanding subjects. What is happening now is that the top 25 universities (mostly Russell Group) in most cases instantly reject candidates who have done more than one of these easier subjects, regardless of what grade has been achieved. One of my friends a few years ago achieved AAA in Psychology, Law and PE, and got rejected by all 6 of her Russell Group university applications to study Law. She ended up at Loughborough through clearing on some random course that they offered her out of pity.
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    (Original post by lerjj)
    Make exams harder? maybe
    Raise the boundaries? no

    That's no good. And it affects everyone in exactly the same way, which is counter to the point. A levels should have a few questions at the end which are a real step up, so that better students can differentiate themselves. That's off the top of my head.
    Imho they should throw in a lot more questions which approach things from different angles, to test how far students have actually understood the content. At the moment you can just prepare essays or methods (e.g. for maths) for the exams in advance, basically, which doesn't test anything but your rote learning ability.
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    (Original post by Mansun)
    The reality is A levels will never be made ''harder'' to any significant in the traditional subjects. There are enough people struggling at A level Maths, Physics and Chemistry as it is. My focus has been more on the so called ''soft'' subjects such as Media studies, Psychology, Home Economics etc. In order to make it a fair level playing field, these subjects need to be comparable in difficulty to obtain the top grades as the more demanding subjects. What is happening now is that the top 25 universities (mostly Russell Group) in most cases instantly reject candidates who have done more than one of these easier subjects, regardless of what grade has been achieved.
    The reason why Russel Group universities don't like people taking these subjects isn't because the exams are too easy, it's because they are too specialised or too vocational to provide the broad knowledge-base that universities feel that students require to take on their courses. No amount of fiddling with results statistics is going to change the fact that an A Level in Home Economics isn't going to help you a lot when starting a degree in a traditional subject. An A* in Media Studies does not make you better qualified to study a degree in History than someone with an A in History. And again, fiddling the results statistics isn't going to make the subjects harder, it's simply going to reduce the number of people getting the top grades. It's simply not true that higher grade boundaries equates to a better assessment.
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    (Original post by Chlorophile)
    How does someone scoring 90% show anything about how well they understand a subject?
    I agree with what you're saying, but this sentence kind of applies universally to all exams. Are you in favour of better exams or scrapping exams?
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    (Original post by Jooooshy)
    I agree with what you're saying, but this sentence kind of applies universally to all exams. Are you in favour of better exams or scrapping exams?
    I'd love to scrap exams but that's clearly not a practical possibility. The next best alternative is better exams - exams that test understanding and thinking rather than regurgitating.
 
 
 
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