The Student Room Group

Do you think A-levels should be structured differently?

This poll is closed

Do you think A-levels should be structured differently?

Yes - they should be more like a Baccalaureate13%
Yes - but I don't like the new plans26%
I'm undecided13%
No - they're fine as they are38%
No - it wouldn't be fair7%
Something else (let us know in the comments!)3%
Total votes: 576
It’s been in the news recently that prime minister Rishi Sunak has proposed a new qualification to replace A-levels.

Apparently, the advanced British standard (ABS) would “take the best” of A-levels and T-levels and bring them together into a “Baccalaureate-style” qualification.

(You can read the full summary over on gov.uk.)

It could take 10 years to introduce these plans, so they probably won't impact your education. But what do you think about them?

Does the education system need to change? And, if so, are these the plans the answer?
Original post by Vic Vinegar
It’s been in the news recently that prime minister Rishi Sunak has proposed a new qualification to replace A-levels.

Apparently, the advanced British standard (ABS) would “take the best” of A-levels and T-levels and bring them together into a “Baccalaureate-style” qualification.

(You can read the full summary over on gov.uk.)

It could take 10 years to introduce these plans, so they probably won't impact your education. But what do you think about them?

Does the education system need to change? And, if so, are these the plans the answer?

I don’t believe the education system needs to change in this way…

There would be too greater impact on schools and universities.

If more subjects were taken (I.e. compulsory English and Maths) alongside chosen subjects, there would be less depth taught of other subjects. Universities would have to change their entry requirements, course structure and content, and the first year of university would simply being going into more depth than at A-level (the depth and breadth that would’ve previously been gone into at A-level).

Moreover, I believe that compulsory English and Maths until 18 is discriminating. Some people are extraordinarily good at Maths/Science and really struggle with English subjects, and vice versa. A-levels are for excelling in what you are good at, not continuing with subjects at a higher level that you struggle with.

I think it would be a major mistake for them to invest in this change, when there are so many current issues that need to be tackled; lack of teaching staff, RAAC…the list goes on. This change would require more teachers, and teachers themselves working more hours, which would also cause significant issues. I have no idea why this is top of their priorities.

However I do believe changes should be made in examinations. I believe that more non-exam assessment should be introduced, and students given the choice to complete coursework or exams instead of solely just exams. It is ridiculous that (for my History A-level) coursework only made up 20% of my grade. Exams are simply a memory test under stressful conditions. I’ve seen people on the TSR simply memorising Psychology essays and blurting them in the exam and receiving high grades, how does this demonstrate skill or understanding at any level?

How are students meant to perform to the best of their abilities in an exam environment? Obviously some people flourish under this pressure, some like me find ways of dealing with the stress, yet others simply cannot cope with it.

Comprehensively, they are looking at change in the wrong area/s!
(edited 4 months ago)
Original post by Lightningparrot
I don’t believe the education system needs to change in this way…

There would be too greater impact on schools and universities.

If more subjects were taken (I.e. compulsory English and Maths) alongside chosen subjects, there would be less depth taught of other subjects. Universities would have to change their entry requirements, course structure and content, and the first year of university would simply being going into more depth than at A-level (the depth and breadth that would’ve previously been gone into at A-level).

Moreover, I believe that compulsory English and Maths until 18 is discriminating. Some people are extraordinarily good at Maths/Science and really struggle with English subjects, and vice versa. A-levels are for excelling in what you are good at, not continuing with subjects at a higher level that you struggle with.

I think it would be a major mistake for them to invest in this change, when there are so many current issues that need to be tackled; lack of teaching staff, RAAC…the list goes on. This change would require more teachers, and teachers themselves working more hours, which would also cause significant issues. I have no idea why this is top of their priorities.

However I do believe changes should be made in examinations. I believe that more non-exam assessment should be introduced, and students given the choice to complete coursework or exams instead of solely just exams. It is ridiculous that (for my History A-level) coursework only made up 20% of my grade. Exams are simply a memory test under stressful conditions. I’ve seen people on the TSR simply memorising Psychology essays and blurting them in the exam and receiving high grades, how does this demonstrate skill or understanding at any level?

How are students meant to perform to the best of their abilities in an exam environment? Obviously some people flourish under this pressure, some like me find ways of dealing with the stress, yet others simply cannot cope with it.

Comprehensively, they are looking at change in the wrong area/s!

Yeah you've made some great points there - I agree :smile:
Reply 3
Original post by Vic Vinegar
Yeah you've made some great points there - I agree :smile:


As teacher I am disgusted by these 'ideas' - A levels only changed a few years ago and T levels are really new.

I really disagree with teaching Maths beyond 16 - we struggle to recruit [outstanding state school] now.
I look forward to telling future employment applicants that desperate vanity projects are not accepted as actual qualifications, didn't they get any real ones? :tongue:
I'm wondering what will happen to international A levels (IAL) after 10 years. Will IAL be changed as well?
Make them modular again but other than that, no there shouldn’t be any changes.

There’s a discussion on this topic here if anyone is interested: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=7405825
imo its great for people to be able to choose, some will do better with the IB style some with A levels, no reason to change A levels to be like IB when IB already exists, rather if government wants to support IB takers more, they should invest into more schools implementing IB as an option.
Reply 8
Original post by JustBenjamin
imo its great for people to be able to choose, some will do better with the IB style some with A levels, no reason to change A levels to be like IB when IB already exists, rather if government wants to support IB takers more, they should invest into more schools implementing IB as an option.


I think he wants it to be a "British qualification" because of course that matters
Only thing I would change is all of the exams being at the end of the two years. Almost no unis structure exams like this so why are A-Levels? Have multiple modules in each subject with exams at set points throughout the year. Could also base uni offers on them rather than the predicted grades we have now.
(edited 4 months ago)
Original post by Uni_student3132
Only thing I would change is all of the exams being at the end of the two years. Almost no unis structure exams like this so why are A-Levels? Have multiple modules in each subject with exams at set points throughout the year. Could also base uni offers on them rather than the predicted grades we have now.


Yeah so making them modular again
i think the only thing that needs changing is to have more coursework generally, too much pressure is put on having these big exams
Original post by Lightningparrot
I don’t believe the education system needs to change in this way…

There would be too greater impact on schools and universities.

If more subjects were taken (I.e. compulsory English and Maths) alongside chosen subjects, there would be less depth taught of other subjects. Universities would have to change their entry requirements, course structure and content, and the first year of university would simply being going into more depth than at A-level (the depth and breadth that would’ve previously been gone into at A-level).

Moreover, I believe that compulsory English and Maths until 18 is discriminating. Some people are extraordinarily good at Maths/Science and really struggle with English subjects, and vice versa. A-levels are for excelling in what you are good at, not continuing with subjects at a higher level that you struggle with.

I think it would be a major mistake for them to invest in this change, when there are so many current issues that need to be tackled; lack of teaching staff, RAAC…the list goes on. This change would require more teachers, and teachers themselves working more hours, which would also cause significant issues. I have no idea why this is top of their priorities.

However I do believe changes should be made in examinations. I believe that more non-exam assessment should be introduced, and students given the choice to complete coursework or exams instead of solely just exams. It is ridiculous that (for my History A-level) coursework only made up 20% of my grade. Exams are simply a memory test under stressful conditions. I’ve seen people on the TSR simply memorising Psychology essays and blurting them in the exam and receiving high grades, how does this demonstrate skill or understanding at any level?

How are students meant to perform to the best of their abilities in an exam environment? Obviously some people flourish under this pressure, some like me find ways of dealing with the stress, yet others simply cannot cope with it.

Comprehensively, they are looking at change in the wrong area/s!


Exams have been a point of contention since the year dot. I remember memorising essays for high school exams decades ago. If I had any clues or intel as to the types of topics we would get, I would prepare essays in advance and memorise them. If there was not as much reliable data available, I would prepare something a bit more generic based on what was commonly found in past papers. It worked every time. This is not a new problem.

The other issue is the fact that the 80/20 split is common in universities, so A levels do at least need to mirror that to some extent. At least your A level grade is not 100% exam, as some unis like to do. However, students do need to become somewhat accustomed to the way things will be at uni. Until HE institutions change their assessment methods, it is not really feasible to make A level assessment radically different.

At this point, messing too much with the structure of A levels will cause too many issues. Reform (if needed) needs to be from the top down. but I don't think Rishi cares too much about that. He's just throwing stuff at the wall right now in the hope that something will stick.
Reply 13
At a time when school buildings are literally crumbling with many in danger of collapse and schools are struggling to recruit and retain good teachers for key subjects, I'd think there are far greater urgent priorities than spending probably £100s millions on this distraction.
Original post by Uni_student3132
Only thing I would change is all of the exams being at the end of the two years. Almost no unis structure exams like this so why are A-Levels? Have multiple modules in each subject with exams at set points throughout the year. Could also base uni offers on them rather than the predicted grades we have now.

It was like this before from 2000 - I liked it as studnets got 'real' grades from AS which contributed to their final grade. Fewer argument about predictions too ...

Resits allowed once would be a good addition ie exams in June only.
Original post by Vic Vinegar
It’s been in the news recently that prime minister Rishi Sunak has proposed a new qualification to replace A-levels.

Apparently, the advanced British standard (ABS) would “take the best” of A-levels and T-levels and bring them together into a “Baccalaureate-style” qualification.

(You can read the full summary over on gov.uk.)

It could take 10 years to introduce these plans, so they probably won't impact your education. But what do you think about them?

Does the education system need to change? And, if so, are these the plans the answer?


maybe I’m personally biased but this sounds very much like the Scottish school system (which I was a part of and loved). At 17 years old we sit between 4 and 6 subjects called Highers. We get one big piece of coursework and then an exam at the end of the year. Math and English aren’t compulsory but you do need them to get into most university courses in Scotland. We do have advanced Highers (like Alevels) to do at 18 but they’re optional. In my final year of high school I did a mix of Highers and Advanced Highers, and still ended up in a Russel Group uni and I’m doing pretty ok. I like Rishi’s idea of giving more subjects
More like the IB? Well, IB is tough and definitely not for everyone.
(compulsory maths, at least two languages, a science, a humanities, Theory of Knowledge (8 subjects), compulsory Extended Essay, Internal Assessment essays in each subject,...)

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