Should the uni admissions system change?

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Poll: Which proposed uni application process would you prefer?
Applying to uni after you get your results (PQA) (588)
52.55%
Applying to uni before exams but only receiving offers after your results (PQO) (111)
9.92%
Applying to uni before exams, interview before results, then receive offers after results (PQO - UCAS) (150)
13.4%
Applying to uni before exams with predicted grades (Current system) (256)
22.88%
Another option (tell us in the chat!) (14)
1.25%
StrawberryDreams
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Applying to uni is a big decision, it can be stressful and mostly happens alongside your final year at school/college. And that’s what students have done for years and years….but does that make it right? Would it be better to apply after you get your exam results? Or would you rather apply early, but not be forced to decide where you’ll go until you’ve received your results so you can weigh up your options?


Right now, the Department for Education in England is questioning if the admissions process should change. They want views on whether changes might avoid students taking places at unis with entry requirements lower than their actual grades, and perhaps stop conditional-unconditional offers being made. They put two models forward:


1. Post-qualification applications: Applications are submitted AFTER exam results (around July), with offers and decisions being made before courses start in October.

Pros: You don’t have to apply until you have your results
• Cons: Potentially you’ll have a very short window (2-3 months) to apply for uni and get ready (including student finance, accommodation etc); Risk that a shorter time window means that Unis will only be able to look at your grades and not the rest of your profile.


2. Post qualification offers: Applications are submitted BEFORE exams, meaning students get access to school/careers support BUT they’re held centrally by UCAS until after exam results are out. It’ll only be after results you’ll receive offers and you can decide where you want to go.

Pros: You’ll do your research upfront while you’re still at school
• Cons: You’ll still have a short window to make final arrangements

There is currently a consultation running on these two options, which you can share your thoughts on here.

UCAS – the admissions service - is also working on a model:

3. Post qualification offers (UCAS) - students would apply and attend interviews and auditions BEFORE exams so that you can start to discuss support needs upfront. You’d be told if you were unsuccessful at an interview, or if you changed your mind you could update your application, but unis wouldn’t be allowed to decide who they offered places to until AFTER exam results when they’d see your full profile.

Pros: You’ll do your research upfront while you’re still at school, you’ll also know for sure if you won’t get a place before exam results are out
Cons: You’ll still have a short window to make final arrangements

We know that’s a lot to think about - and all of these models throw up different questions like…

  • Is it better to have decisions based on actual grades, even if it makes decision-making more rushed?
  • Would you rather spend your summer working on your application, possibly while your school is closed? Or would you prefer to do this earlier in the year while teachers are around?
  • What if something goes wrong on the day and your grades aren’t as good as you hoped – would you still apply and hope for the best?
  • Or better to carry on as we are now, even if that means some students aren’t applying to their top choices because their predicted grades aren’t great – only to find that they’ve aced the exams in the end, while someone else with amazing predictions falls short in the exams but gets the place anyway?


What do you think?

Would you rather revisit the way applications are made – do you think these models work? Or have you got a better idea?

Let us know your thoughts!
Last edited by StrawberryDreams; 3 weeks ago
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PQ
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https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2021/03/18/ne...ir-admissions/

There's problems with the current system. None of the proposed "solutions" actually address the problems fully and most introduce new and exciting ways for unfairness to be baked into the system - and are likely to lead to new loopholes that universities use to make the system work (more unconditional offers, pre applications offers, pre application admissions tests etc etc).

Plus it will break poor old SFE (they pretty much manage to pay everyone who applies between February and end June on time at the moment - if everyone is applying for finance in July and August then it's going to cause chaos). Although maybe the government will "fix" that problem by scrapping student loans and making students apply for universal credit instead :rofl:
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Sandtrooper
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I think we should all apply after getting grades. This may potentially mean moving exams back by a month or so, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it's worth it. Applying with grades in hand evens the playing field at top universities. People will hear back fairly quickly, too. Perhaps references could be submitted early, to avoid teachers having to do lots of work in a short period of time, and SFE could have a general application earlier on, then you specify your university later.
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Bookworm_88
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Is there any hint on when a new system would be rolled out (depending on whether it does get approved)?
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mnot
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Their is a huge benefit to applying after grades have been released for both universities and students.
But their is a very tight window to turn it around.

But overall I do think capping the amount of uni's you can apply to helps. & the nationalised examinations and application procedure do make for a very level playing field.

Changes I would like to see:
- 1 exam board
- GPA grading (not tiers) (I would like to see this at high school & university level).
- No exam resits

I personally think a system could work where A-levels are split into 4 exams January & June year 12 & 13. That way students would have 50% of grades banked before year 13 (which would help with narrowing the list of unis to apply to) and unis could wait till after the January year 13 grades for offers meaning 75% of grades are sorted when offers get distributed and its pretty clear where a student is likely to land.

Also the GPA system means overall and subject performances can be seen exactly where a student has performed and thus a student has one narrow miss doesn't pull down a full qualification.
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swanseajack1
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(Original post by mnot)
Their is a huge benefit to applying after grades have been released for both universities and students.
But their is a very tight window to turn it around.

But overall I do think capping the amount of uni's you can apply to helps. & the nationalised examinations and application procedure do make for a very level playing field.

Changes I would like to see:
- 1 exam board
- GPA grading (not tiers) (I would like to see this at high school & university level).
- No exam resits

I personally think a system could work where A-levels are split into 4 exams January & June year 12 & 13. That way students would have 50% of grades banked before year 13 (which would help with narrowing the list of unis to apply to) and unis could wait till after the January year 13 grades for offers meaning 75% of grades are sorted when offers get distributed and its pretty clear where a student is likely to land.

Also the GPA system means overall and subject performances can be seen exactly where a student has performed and thus a student has one narrow miss doesn't pull down a full qualification.
This system is very similar to what happens in Wales and occurred in England before Gove decided he wanted to get rid of AS level in England to go back years to how A levels were in his days.

I dont see the need to change the Admissions Procedure. To do this would mean bringing exams forward or putting the start of start of university backwards. The vast majority of applicants get offers from most of their choices. Those who get rejected would be unlikely to get in anyway and can use extra, adjustment or clearing. Certainly the use of modular exams as you suggest would help better inform students and universities.
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mnot
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(Original post by swanseajack1)
This system is very similar to what happens in Wales and occurred in England before Gove decided he wanted to get rid of AS level in England to go back years to how A levels were in his days.

I dont see the need to change the Admissions Procedure. To do this would mean bringing exams forward or putting the start of start of university backwards. The vast majority of applicants get offers from most of their choices. Those who get rejected would be unlikely to get in anyway and can use extra, adjustment or clearing. Certainly the use of modular exams as you suggest would help better inform students and universities.
Yes, the system changed as I completed my A-levels in year 12 I could sit exams in January but in year 13 I had to take them all in June, which had lots of benefits.

I do like the linear system i.e. everyone sitting the same qualification sitting the same papers together, but I think if you could take that and spread it over the old systems exam windows (plus GPA/percentage grading and get rid of resits), would make for a much fairer & efficient system.
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ThomH97
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On the assumption that students are going to be researching their possible choices before they do their exams, I'd say apply with your results. Universities are going to be filled up anyway so there's no real need for them to know probable figures (though this could be incorporated relatively easily if extrapolating previous years isn't accurate enough).

Universities and students are both currently left in the lurch between an offer being made and results being released. Universities waste time reviewing applicants who will end up missing their offer, and have to gamble on how many offers to give out and then there's the rush of clearing. Students have a limited number of choices they have to gamble on, a gamble that could have a massive impact on their future.

The only issue I see is accommodation, but as long as universities provide it for all their first years, there's no problem.
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cory.de.ath
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(Original post by mnot)
Their is a huge benefit to applying after grades have been released for both universities and students.
But their is a very tight window to turn it around.

But overall I do think capping the amount of uni's you can apply to helps. & the nationalised examinations and application procedure do make for a very level playing field.

Changes I would like to see:
- 1 exam board
- GPA grading (not tiers) (I would like to see this at high school & university level).
- No exam resits

I personally think a system could work where A-levels are split into 4 exams January & June year 12 & 13. That way students would have 50% of grades banked before year 13 (which would help with narrowing the list of unis to apply to) and unis could wait till after the January year 13 grades for offers meaning 75% of grades are sorted when offers get distributed and its pretty clear where a student is likely to land.

Also the GPA system means overall and subject performances can be seen exactly where a student has performed and thus a student has one narrow miss doesn't pull down a full qualification.
PRSOM! If only Mr. Williamson had such a logical train of thought...
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Omarblack
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I think the current system is flawed and it should be that students apply once they have their grades, as quite often students with lower predicted grades get better final grades but they miss out on opportunities to go to good universities. On the other hand we could have a student with good predicted but doesn't quite achieve the same on his exams, but is still offered a place. This system is flawed and isn't exactly fair, nor does it promote equal opportunities.
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WassupLadz
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I think the current system is flawed but these aren't the appropriate solutions for it here's why-

The time frame to apply and get offers is too short. You have to remember universities like Imperial get about 20k applications. So it takes a lot of time to process through this stuff. Yes you can hire more staff etc, but money doesn't grow on trees simple as. Plus most people apart from a very few top universities, Durham UCL LSE Imperial Oxbridge of course have lower acceptance rates and these are the hardest cases. Most people make their choice of uni anyway so there's not a big enough deal to change.
Also people want to enjoy their summer, uni staff and students, im pretty sure they'd rather work very hard for some of the year rather than work fairly hard throughout the year, as it leaves no holidays.

I think we should start standardised computer based testing on multiple choice for all courses (The reason I say multiple choice is because marking is infinitely cheaper and much easier on a large scale, which is what they do in India China US etc) . So Medicine already have this (UCAT for those who don't know as well as BMAT but the essay bit is still there). So for example lets take Maths as a course, simple maths A level questions very harsh timing, and yh that's all. Make it hard enough to see a large enough spread of students to differentiate them. Economics - Do multiple choice tests, there's an abundance of questions from the last 100 years or something crazy, just use those. Computer science - Use maths tests
Engineering and physics - maths and physics mix. Bio chem do the same. LAW - LSAT is already there, hence why their process is so efficient.
History - 1 essay test that unis can see, no computer marking. word limit 30 min time frame.
Subjects that are remaining but these are the minority anyway - do something like the SAT or TSA, as it shows thinking skills altogether.
Arts subjects - send portfolio etc to uni

another proposal for uni choices is a preference system like the old days. Lets say u want to go to oxbridge, durham Warwick Manchester York. Now u would put a number of preference as to which uni u want to go. Unis now have a list of student as preference 1 , 2 , 3 4, 5. this means that students apply to courses they actually like rather than taking up space as a safety or just filing up the space. I have offers from all 5 unis and I know I wouldve never gone to 3 of them as I was confident that ill get into my top 2 choices. My friends have applied for same course at same uni and have been rejected when they actually wanted to go to that uni. Essentially this system will ensure that unis offer to people who want to go to that uni. And it will also make students more precautious of their choosing rather than just filling in unis for the sake of it. My friend applied for compsci at 5 top unis, rejected from 4, same goes for med engineering this year. I think a preference system will allocate spaces fairly.

I had a lot of friends who are all predicted 4A*s rejected for med compsci econ engineering etc. I applied for maths and so I got offers easily cut I did well. I felt really bad. if there were tests they can shine through rather than be judged on personal statement which is ******** subjective.
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WassupLadz
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(Original post by Omarblack)
I think the current system is flawed and it should be that students apply once they have their grades, as quite often students with lower predicted grades get better final grades but they miss out on opportunities to go to good universities. On the other hand we could have a student with good predicted but doesn't quite achieve the same on his exams, but is still offered a place. This system is flawed and isn't exactly fair, nor does it promote equal opportunities.
but ur kind of using the marginal case of not getting predicted well. Teachers want students to succeed. Id even go as far to say state schools are more lenient that independent/grammar schools when coming to predicted grades, but its just that students aren't achieving them so what's the point?
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TCL
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I think it would be great if it was normal to take a gap year before going to university and govt facilitated jobs in community service, in health, food banks, outdoor things like path building in national parks, military, big company sponsorships (which used to be common for engineering), classroom assistant jobs, so a bit like National Service. People could apply to university from their gap year. It would mean people were not rushed into a degree which might not be the right subject for them, but could get their results and some world experience before deciding what they really wanted to do next.
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drbluebox
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A big problem I find with the system is as a mature student or even one that has taken a year or two out, they don't have guidance tutors to help them with the application process and for mature students even more lack of funding/support to help with personal statements.

Take me for example I went straight to college after school in part as I was bullied, in past as I got a grant and at school would of got nothing, at college I got a free bus pass and fares were expensive.

I then took a few years out to just be a young person, got a job, went on nights out and not rush myself but when it came to a PS I felt I could no longer write one, I had the qualifications and intelligence to study but was very rusty and began to forget parts of my school education.

So I had to compete with people who had education fresh in their minds, various methods of support and sometimes even preference as they wanted younger students (yes I had that bias even when I applied for certain college courses) To me if someone is say in their mid 20's and has a interview after being out of education for years, more should be done to see the positives in what they did say even if the interview itself was much worse than someone still at school who has education fresh in their mind and who has recieved coaching/support. I say that sort of things not just for education but in the workplace, someone who may come from a poorer background and with less opportunities may only achieve a certain level of lifestyle/work but someone else may have a better background, and worked in "better" jobs but barely gone above what they started at in life if at all, that would make the 1st person seem they can go above whats expected of them - sorry little side story.
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nexttime
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(Original post by StrawberryDreams)
1. Post-qualification applications: Applications are submitted AFTER exam results (around July), with offers and decisions being made before courses start in October.

Pros: You don’t have to apply until you have your results
• Cons: Potentially you’ll have a very short window (2-3 months) to apply for uni and get ready (including student finance, accommodation etc); Risk that a shorter time window means that Unis will only be able to look at your grades and not the rest of your profile.
There's just no way that could work though right. Uni admissions departments couldn't handle it (least of all those who actually make an effort with admissions tests and interviews - medicine, Oxbridge, handful of other courses). And that rather limits the solutions 2 + 3 as well.

Not without a major restructuring of when people are admitted in relation to exams anyway - uni could start in January after exam results in August, I guess?

Would you rather revisit the way applications are made – do you think these models work? Or have you got a better idea?
Need to bring back AS. It was ridiculous that they were scrapped, seemingly just because one man thought it was time for a bit of a change? And it hasn't even been fully implemented, seemingly? Some people still do AS? What on earth were they thinking!?

I quite like the idea of basing all uni admissions off of AS. Main problem is what motivation would students have to do well at A2. Uni credit maybe?! Dunno.

(Original post by PQ)
Plus it will break poor old SFE (they pretty much manage to pay everyone who applies between February and end June on time at the moment - if everyone is applying for finance in July and August then it's going to cause chaos). Although maybe the government will "fix" that problem by scrapping student loans and making students apply for universal credit instead :rofl:
You'd have to simplify student loans. Giving everyone the same loan regardless of income, which would be fairer anyway, would be a good start! Then all they need to process is proof of identity and bank details.
(Original post by mnot)
- GPA grading (not tiers) (I would like to see this at high school & university level).
Agreed.

The whole idea of grades is just a dumbing down so that Joe Public doesn't have to deal with actual numbers, isn't it?
(Original post by WassupLadz)
I think we should start standardised computer based testing on multiple choice for all courses (The reason I say multiple choice is because marking is infinitely cheaper and much easier on a large scale, which is what they do in India China US etc) . So Medicine already have this (UCAT for those who don't know as well as BMAT but the essay bit is still there). So for example lets take Maths as a course, simple maths A level questions very harsh timing, and yh that's all. Make it hard enough to see a large enough spread of students to differentiate them. Economics - Do multiple choice tests, there's an abundance of questions from the last 100 years or something crazy, just use those. Computer science - Use maths tests
Engineering and physics - maths and physics mix. Bio chem do the same. LAW - LSAT is already there, hence why their process is so efficient.

History - 1 essay test that unis can see, no computer marking. word limit 30 min time frame.
Subjects that are remaining but these are the minority anyway - do something like the SAT or TSA, as it shows thinking skills altogether.
Arts subjects - send portfolio etc to uni
So you're proposing dedicated admissions tests for all subjects for all unis?

Problem is, most unis really just don't care enough about their admissions to want to pay for this. Their budgets are tight enough as it is, and selecting slightly better students doesn't actually gain them any extra funding, and it doesn't impact the grades they can award.

another proposal for uni choices is a preference system like the old days. Lets say u want to go to oxbridge, durham Warwick Manchester York. Now u would put a number of preference as to which uni u want to go. Unis now have a list of student as preference 1 , 2 , 3 4, 5. this means that students apply to courses they actually like rather than taking up space as a safety or just filing up the space. I have offers from all 5 unis and I know I wouldve never gone to 3 of them as I was confident that ill get into my top 2 choices. My friends have applied for same course at same uni and have been rejected when they actually wanted to go to that uni. Essentially this system will ensure that unis offer to people who want to go to that uni. And it will also make students more precautious of their choosing rather than just filling in unis for the sake of it. My friend applied for compsci at 5 top unis, rejected from 4, same goes for med engineering this year. I think a preference system will allocate spaces fairly.
This is an interesting idea - getting people to number their choices before they apply. It basically removes power from applicants (as they have to decide earlier) in favour of making it simpler for unis, as they could be told their offer has been rejected far quicker. That might allow an extra uni choice or two, maybe?

I think you are also hinting here that you'd just let people apply to as many unis as they want? Definitely wouldn't be for that. It would make running admissions selection far harder and they'd have to resort to far more arbitrary measures. For example no way Cambridge could interview ~80% of its applicants if it were getting 20 applicants per place rather than 4.
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ajj2000
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(Original post by drbluebox)
A big problem I find with the system is as a mature student or even one that has taken a year or two out, they don't have guidance tutors to help them with the application process and for mature students even more lack of funding/support to help with personal statements.

Take me for example I went straight to college after school in part as I was bullied, in past as I got a grant and at school would of got nothing, at college I got a free bus pass and fares were expensive.

I then took a few years out to just be a young person, got a job, went on nights out and not rush myself but when it came to a PS I felt I could no longer write one, I had the qualifications and intelligence to study but was very rusty and began to forget parts of my school education.

So I had to compete with people who had education fresh in their minds, various methods of support and sometimes even preference as they wanted younger students (yes I had that bias even when I applied for certain college courses) To me if someone is say in their mid 20's and has a interview after being out of education for years, more should be done to see the positives in what they did say even if the interview itself was much worse than someone still at school who has education fresh in their mind and who has recieved coaching/support. I say that sort of things not just for education but in the workplace, someone who may come from a poorer background and with less opportunities may only achieve a certain level of lifestyle/work but someone else may have a better background, and worked in "better" jobs but barely gone above what they started at in life if at all, that would make the 1st person seem they can go above whats expected of them - sorry little side story.
What course were you applying for and to which universites? Was it something where a personal statement would matter much?

I don't get the impression that most schools do anything particularly amazing in advising their students on university admissions and choices.
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nexttime
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My interpretation of that, correct me if I'm wrong, is that they are saying that predicted grades might actually be slightly better for under-represented groups (mainly because state schools are far more lax with the predictions they make, I suspect), therefore they are "fair"?

Seems a very interesting definition of fair doesn't it?! My understanding is that predicted grades are horribly inaccurate. That alone makes them 'unfair', and is sufficient to make every effort to get rid of them!

(Original post by TCL)
I think it would be great if it was normal to take a gap year before going to university and govt facilitated jobs in community service, in health, food banks, outdoor things like path building in national parks, military, big company sponsorships (which used to be common for engineering), classroom assistant jobs, so a bit like National Service. People could apply to university from their gap year. It would mean people were not rushed into a degree which might not be the right subject for them, but could get their results and some world experience before deciding what they really wanted to do next.
So solve the time problem by bringing back national service basically
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barnet1471
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My view is that if it is practical, application when you know your grades. Perhaps university terms should change and be a bit later in the autumn were this to be the case.
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PQ
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(Original post by nexttime)
My interpretation of that, correct me if I'm wrong, is that they are saying that predicted grades might actually be slightly better for under-represented groups (mainly because state schools are far more lax with the predictions they make, I suspect), therefore they are "fair"?

Seems a very interesting definition of fair doesn't it?! My understanding is that predicted grades are horribly inaccurate. That alone makes them 'unfair', and is sufficient to make every effort to get rid of them!


So solve the time problem by bringing back national service basically
Yep. My preferred choice is scrap predicted grades from the applicants so that the pretence that they’re used in any meaningful way (any universities that are using them for selection aren’t operating “fair” admissions) can go.

(Plus bring back AS levels - the most selective universities did try to encourage applicants to still take AS levels but it didn’t have any traction against Gove’s reforms and the funding associated with them for sixth forms)
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8013
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PQA for me.
My teachers under predict students and we all do significantly better than predicted. The average grade rise is 2.1 grades per subject. My school sets the median grade as D/E instead of B/C as most exam boards do.
My school uses a 5-point GPA scale since year 7. Only around 15% of each cohort in Y7-9 and less than 10% in Y10-12 receives a 4.0 or above, which is a B average (5 in DSE, but a 5 is widely equivalent to A in A level). All students who have a 5.0 average (all A-A*, or 5*-5** in DSE) will have their name shown on a sign in the hall. Only like 20 students have gotten the honour in school history. The standards in my school are too high.
A system similar to DSE, when students have options to change choices on results day, can be added as well. Some people who do much better or worse than predicted can readjust their choices so they can end up at a uni which suits their ability.
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