There should be A*s at A Level

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Stuart Williams
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In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] om says...
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "Stuart Williams" <[email protected]uartwilliams.plus.com> wrote in message[/q1]
[q3]> > >[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > This is not offered in any confrontational way, but I couldn't disagree more profoundly: the[/q2]
[q2]> > universities do drive the school system at 16+ in a way which is all-pervasive. Is there anyone[/q2]
[q2]> > on this group who thinks that universities are /not/ in effect responsible for the school[/q2]
[q2]> > system?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> (I don't actually have any idea, but) Surely since the majority of students don't go to[/q1]
[q1]> university, the school system is in no way geared to universities?[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
I agree that the HE sector has little influence on 5-16-year-olds. I tend to see everything from
a Sixth Form point of view. But I imagine that the majority of 16-18 students /at school/ (i.e.,
not at FE College) do indeed go to university. Furthermore, if you confine the debate to those
16-18-year-olds who actually /complete/ GCEs or GNVQs, you'll find an even larger proportion go
on to degree-level study. (Perhaps surprisingly, the stats are not easy to come by, but I'll
keep looking.)

SW
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Brian Sloan
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[q1]> (Could you reply at the bottom of posts, please)[/q1]

AFTER deleting irrelevant information to minimise scrolling, please!

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Jhp
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[q1]> A-LEVEL EXAM ARE A LOTTERY. PROFFESOR DYLAN KING AND KINGS COLLEGE SAID[/q1]
THIS
[q1]> A FEW YEARS AGO.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> ABOLSIH A-LEVELS. BRING IN THE IB.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
Well Proffesor Dylan King is wrong. Just because something is imperefect doesn't mean it's utterly
useless. John
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Brackets
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"Stuart Williams" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]> In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] om says...[/q1]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > "Stuart Williams" <[email protected]> wrote in message[/q2]
[q3]> > > >[/q3]
[q3]> > >[/q3]
[q3]> > > This is not offered in any confrontational way, but I couldn't[/q3]
disagree
[q3]> > > more profoundly: the universities do drive the school system at 16+ in[/q3]
a
[q3]> > > way which is all-pervasive. Is there anyone on this group who thinks[/q3]
that
[q3]> > > universities are /not/ in effect responsible for the school system?[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > (I don't actually have any idea, but) Surely since the majority of[/q2]
students
[q2]> > don't go to university, the school system is in no way geared to universities?[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q1]> I agree that the HE sector has little influence on 5-16-year-olds. I tend to see everything from a[/q1]
[q1]> Sixth Form point of view. But I imagine that the majority of 16-18 students /at school/ (i.e., not[/q1]
[q1]> at FE College) do indeed go to university. Furthermore, if you confine the debate to those[/q1]
[q1]> 16-18-year-olds who actually /complete/ GCEs or GNVQs, you'll find an even larger proportion go on[/q1]
[q1]> to degree-level study. (Perhaps surprisingly, the stats are not easy to come by, but I'll keep[/q1]
[q1]> looking.)[/q1]

I seem to recall that about 50% from my college go to Uni, and since I come from a fairly middle
class area, I would presume that that percentage is much lower in other areas. However, I could
indeed have recalled that entirely incorrectly, so I suggest you carry on looking

--
Alex Studders Greggers Brackets
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Jhp
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[q1]> AFTER deleting irrelevant information to minimise scrolling, please![/q1]

lol! Touche, (but there wasn't that much to delete, really - we're not dealing with Omar the
Irrelevant here)
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Jhp
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Fadz111 <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
[q2]> >You write as if 'elitist' were a bad thing. It is an entirely good thing[/q2]
as
[q2]> >far as education is concerned. It seems self-evident that the very best should be able to go to[/q2]
[q2]> >the very best institution (however they define[/q2]
that)
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Yeah, the problem is how people define the very best institutiion and[/q1]
hence as
[q1]> a result of this definition i think a lot of people think that elitism is[/q1]
a bad
[q1]> thing (i'm not saying it is) Its also important to point out the connotations that people our[/q1]
[q1]> age have[/q1]
with
[q1]> the term 'elitism'- probably public school, middle class rich boys that[/q1]
went to
[q1]> public schools (i.e Eton, St. Pauls etc) and hence they haven't maybe[/q1]
really
[q1]> had to work as hard as counterparts to achieve equal success as measured[/q1]
by
[q1]> a-levels.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> What i believe to be the main problem is something u touched upon in your comment about how we[/q1]
[q1]> definie the best institutions. That, for me is the[/q1]
main
[q1]> crux of the problem and things stem from that![/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> fudge[/q1]
I understand that. I;m using elitism in its strict definitional sense. I agree that it has some
nasty connotations in everyday use and I wouldn't support that for a moment. I admit lots of ppl
from the 'elitist' schools every year and we've had a moderately good correlation of A levels with
class of degree. What is disturbing is that the correlation of A level scores of u/gs from
comprehensive with degree class is not as good. This is partly because they are not as well suited
to university study as the rather more independently minded (and over self-confident) indy u/gs. A
large rnuber leave. It's puzzling. John
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Mark Thakkar
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John,

[q1]> I admit lots of ppl from the 'elitist' schools every year and we've had a moderately good[/q1]
[q1]> correlation of A levels with class of degree. What is disturbing is that the correlation of A[/q1]
[q1]> level scores of u/gs from comprehensive with degree class is not as good. This is partly because[/q1]
[q1]> they are not as well suited to university study as the rather more independently minded (and over[/q1]
[q1]> self-confident) indy u/gs. A large rnuber leave. It's puzzling.[/q1]

Very puzzling! That's in direct contrast to the received wisdom (with which I can sympathize) that
people from independent schools /don't/ do as well as perhaps they should, because they're not used
to having to put in as much effort. The image is of the state school student as having an heroic
battle against insurmountable odds, so that those who pull through must be the crème de la crème;
and of the independent school student as having a simple cruise towards a good clutch of A grades,
so that any old eejit can succeed (and, later, fail).

Do any of our other university types have any experience of this correlation, either way?

Mark.
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Jhp
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Robin <[email protected] m> wrote in message
news:notevenbothering-ED5953.1057081...btinternet.com...
[q1]> In article <[email protected]>, "JHP"[/q1]
[q1]> <[email protected] t.co.uk> wrote:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]> > Not exclusively, but I suppose that's part of it. If we educate the ppl who are best able to[/q2]
[q2]> > benefit from it that's a pretty good policy. I know let's do the reverse - let's pick a random[/q2]
[q2]> > set of ppl and send them all to Cambridge to study stuff they won't understand. Oh no, wait -[/q2]
[q2]> > let's get Cambridge to dumb down it's courses so the random set can follow.[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > Brilliant.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> It was Ali G who roughly said, "Why is it that clever people go to univercity when it is the[/q1]
[q1]> stupid people that actually need it."[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> My main problem with treating the 'best' better is what do we do to the worst? Send anyone who[/q1]
[q1]> doesn't pass their GCSEs off to Australia?[/q1]

No of course not - we give them education appropriate to them. Doesn't mean worse, just means
different.

[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> There might be a crazy world one day where everyone can get the same level of education and[/q1]
[q1]> general class conditions but hey...[/q1]

Why on earth would everyone want the same level of education - some ppl think education is
stupid irrelevant and counter-productive. What we want is that everyone has the same opportunity
to be educated.
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Grade boundaries frequently piss me off for a variety of reasons - what I want which has probably[/q1]
[q1]> been bought up before is a relational percentage system - 'I came in the top 17% or whatever'.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

I certainly don't agree with the percentage form of results - it gives an impression of accuracy
which just doesn't exist.

John
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Jhp
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. It's puzzling.
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Very puzzling! That's in direct contrast to the received wisdom (with which I can sympathize) that[/q1]
[q1]> people from independent schools /don't/ do as well as perhaps they should, because they're not[/q1]
[q1]> used to having to put in as much effort. The image is of the state school student as having an[/q1]
[q1]> heroic battle against insurmountable odds, so that those who pull through must be the crème de la[/q1]
[q1]> crème; and of the independent school student as having a simple cruise towards a good clutch of A[/q1]
[q1]> grades, so that any old eejit can succeed (and, later, fail).[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Do any of our other university types have any experience of this correlation, either way?[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Mark.[/q1]
I suspect that the two mechanisms are there, one dominating sometimes the other on other occasions.
Or maybe Barf is crap at picking comprehensive school applicants! John
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Alex Warren
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JHP wrote:

[q2]> > Grade boundaries frequently piss me off for a variety of reasons - what I want which has[/q2]
[q2]> > probably been bought up before is a relational percentage system - 'I came in the top 17% or[/q2]
[q2]> > whatever'.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> I certainly don't agree with the percentage form of results - it gives an impression of accuracy[/q1]
[q1]> which just doesn't exist.[/q1]

Also, surely a university would then set an offer of, say, 80%, in which case if you miss your offer
by 1% you STILL don't get in.

Alex
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Robin
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In article <[email protected]>, "JHP"
<[email protected] t.co.uk> wrote:

[q2]> > My main problem with treating the 'best' better is what do we do to the worst? Send anyone who[/q2]
[q2]> > doesn't pass their GCSEs off to Australia?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> No of course not - we give them education appropriate to them. Doesn't mean worse, just means[/q1]
[q1]> different.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

Cool, thats what I think too.

My problem is that there is a shortage of top quality oppertunities, that basically equal people get
treated differently because of a lack of resources.

[q2]> > Grade boundaries frequently piss me off for a variety of reasons - what I want which has[/q2]
[q2]> > probably been bought up before is a relational percentage system - 'I came in the top 17% or[/q2]
[q2]> > whatever'.[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> I certainly don't agree with the percentage form of results - it gives an impression of accuracy[/q1]
[q1]> which just doesn't exist.[/q1]

You are right, i just get fustrated with the current system which involves (sometimes) parts of
moving boundaries due to the group pupil performace. I've got high exam marks which I really didn't
deserve due to the fact those around me were even worse (last year M1 comming to mind).

I totally agree with you - people should get what they want educationally (within boundaries) and it
seems to just keep going a bit dodgy to people around me.

But i suppose it could be worse
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Jhp
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Alex Warren <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]> JHP wrote:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q3]> > > Grade boundaries frequently piss me off for a variety of reasons -[/q3]
what
[q3]> > > I want which has probably been bought up before is a relational percentage system - 'I came in[/q3]
[q3]> > > the top 17% or whatever'.[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > I certainly don't agree with the percentage form of results - it gives[/q2]
an
[q2]> > impression of accuracy which just doesn't exist.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Also, surely a university would then set an offer of, say, 80%, in which[/q1]
case if
[q1]> you miss your offer by 1% you STILL don't get in.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Alex[/q1]
I suppose there is an argument that because of the ludicrous apparent accuracy we could be more
flexible. I doubt it, though. (I'm marking papers as you read and I reckon if I get within +/- 5%
I'm doing damn well.) John
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Robin
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In article <qpgmguc0vgjacpkngi2dghepulb4ncv [email protected]>, Alex Warren
<[email protected]> wrote:

[q2]> > I certainly don't agree with the percentage form of results - it gives an impression of accuracy[/q2]
[q2]> > which just doesn't exist.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Also, surely a university would then set an offer of, say, 80%, in which case if you miss your[/q1]
[q1]> offer by 1% you STILL don't get in.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

Which happens now with grade boundaries. I guess its messed up either way. Its just that results
system seemed a bit more tandigble to outsiders - with different board, different exams and
different subjects all being incosistant the meaning of an A grade is really getting thinned out -
which is what this discussion started up about.

I just thought in theory it made sense - its a stat most can bend to suit their needs - brainy
people get their tiny percentage and lower performers still get to be able to be better than
thousands. But like most grading systems it does fall apart at many levels

Pass/Fail exams then National Service for everyone then
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Jhp
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[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> But i suppose it could be worse [/q1]
Sure, it's not perferct. The only redeeming feature is that from what I observe university ATs have
the studes at heart.

John
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Jhp
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[q1]> Pass/Fail exams then National Service for everyone then [/q1]

No no. National Service only for poor or ugly people who fail their GCSEs. You know it makes
sense. John
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Alex Warren
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Robin wrote:

[q1]> In article <qpgmguc0vgjacpkngi2dghepulb4ncv [email protected]>, Alex Warren[/q1]
[q1]> <[email protected]> wrote:[/q1]

[q2]> > Also, surely a university would then set an offer of, say, 80%, in which case if you miss your[/q2]
[q2]> > offer by 1% you STILL don't get in.[/q2]

[q1]> Which happens now with grade boundaries. I guess its messed up either way. Its just that results[/q1]
[q1]> system seemed a bit more tandigble to outsiders - with different board, different exams and[/q1]
[q1]> different subjects all being incosistant the meaning of an A grade is really getting thinned out -[/q1]
[q1]> which is what this discussion started up about.[/q1]

Different board, different exams and different subjects surely means an 80% from one board could be
completely different to an 80% from another board. Which is why we have the grading system.
Marvellous.

Alex
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Robin
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In article <[email protected]>, "JHP"
<[email protected] t.co.uk> wrote:

[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > Pass/Fail exams then National Service for everyone then [/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> No no. National Service only for poor or ugly people who fail their GCSEs. You know it makes[/q1]
[q1]> sense. John[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

Bea-ut.

I thought it was a comedy cliche but there are a bunch of older people who I have found that think a
war is whats needed to sort out the youf of today.

It would put the whole A/A* thing into perspective

Rooooo x
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Davido
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[q1]> Something even better. Forget the A*. You just get your UMS Marks in the form of NUMBERS. By[/q1]
[q1]> having a numerical grade, sum of the UMS score of all the papers it is much more accurate. The[/q1]
[q1]> lettered grade you could have someone as you said scraping an A at 483 and another getting 550/[/q1]
[q1]> Big difference.[/q1]

I agree absolutely - it's maybe better to have the whole A Level as a
% rather than out of 600. This is how they do it in Australian HSEs,
just a number.

It shows the difference between someone that scraped 80 and got 98.

It also shows the difference between someone who worked hard to get 39 and someone who dossed
and got 10.

How about this to show overall A Level performance - take the average of the 3 or 4 A Levels, with
the opportunity to reject/accept Gen Studs or eg if you got AAAD, so the D doesnt bring down your
mean. Then say if u have 3 A Levels, average 86, you say you got 3-86. Easy comparisons - 4-91,
3-62, 2-51, 3-83...

[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> So forget the A* and the lettering system of grades. Bring in the numbers. You see the true number[/q1]
[q1]> of ums marks gained. Then it is easier for addmissiosn tutors to decide how close ther person is[/q1]
[q1]> to the majic A or B grade.[/q1]
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Dr A. N. Walker
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In article <[email protected]>, steve.wren
<[email protected]> wrote:
[q1]>As a teacher I'm very much against introducing an A* grade at A level. All it would effectively do[/q1]
[q1]>is downgrade all achievements by 1 level.[/q1]

As an admissions tutor, I'm very much in favour, at least for maths. A in maths has
become an *absurdly* easy qualification for prospective mathematicians, and no guida at
all to quality.

[q1]>At GCSE the A* grade has served to devalue the grade A (making it only the 2nd best grade) rather[/q1]
[q1]>than being a "bonus" award for the very best A grade students.[/q1]

Then the answer is to restore some sanity by re-labelling A* -> A, A -> B, and so on. If
that's politically impossible, then we can call them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or doh, re, mi, ..., or
alpha, beta, gamma, ... as a disguise. The A was already devalued; far too many pupils were
getting straight A's, to the point where, as an AT, if I saw a mere B in DT or RS or some
such, the immediate unworthy thought was "Ah, at last, someone I can reject!".

[q1]>When they brought in A* content onto the main GCSE course and exam they just moved the grade[/q1]
[q1]>boundaries down. I still can't accept that it should be possible to gain only 50% on an exam and be[/q1]
[q1]>given an A grade as currently happens at GCSE.[/q1]

It may well be undesirable that the exam should be such that 50% secures an A, but whether
it's possible surely depends on how hard the questions were. In the old [1900-ish] Cambridge
Maths Tripos, the pass mark was around 1%, and the first-class border around 10%. But those
exams were *tough*.

[q1]>Regarding A level there is already an effective A* grade - the Advanced Extension Award was[/q1]
[q1]>introduced to identify those A grade students who have exceptional mathematical skills.[/q1]

In what sense is this effective? Firstly, there's a chicken- and-egg problem -- we can't ask
for it until almost all schools offer it, and schools won't want to commit resources to it
until univs are asking for it. Secondly, it's yet another way in which schools with large
sixth-forms and lots of resources will be able to do better than the
relatively-disadvantaged. Thirdly, it's Yet Another Exam. Bah!

[q1]> It is based on the core PURE content of A level (no new topics)[/q1]
[q1]> but asks non standard questions in order to differentiate between[/q1]
[q1]> students.[/q1]

Right. So. like STEP, it will produce students who are good at Olympiad-stype questions and
crosswords, and will bear no relation to practical mathematics. And, like STEP, the first
year will produce some interesting new questions, and thereafter students will be trained
how to do them. It's just an extra complication, to add to the bloated module
choices/syllabuses, that we can do without.

--
Andy Walker, School of MathSci., Univ. of Nott'm, UK. [email protected]
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Steve.Wren
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[q1]> As an admissions tutor, I'm very much in favour, at least for maths. A in maths has become an[/q1]
[q1]> *absurdly* easy qualification for prospective mathematicians, and no guida at all to quality.[/q1]

I think that 25% of A level students get a grade A so it is a guide to Mathematical ability - it
allows you to know that a candidate is in the top quartile of A level mathematicians which means
that the candidate is in the top couple of percent of the countries population when it comes to
mathematics.

I agree though that for some people this is not enough and it is required to be able to compare a
number of candidates who may all have a grade A and only some can be accepted.

[q2]> >When they brought in A* content onto the main GCSE course and exam they[/q2]
just
[q2]> >moved the grade boundaries down. I still can't accept that it should be possible to gain only 50%[/q2]
[q2]> >on an exam and be given an A grade as currently happens at GCSE.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> It may well be undesirable that the exam should be such that 50% secures an A, but whether it's[/q1]
[q1]> possible surely depends on how hard the questions were.[/q1]

Agreed - i hope that this is an area that is considered int he forthcoming trial of two tier GCSe
maths (as opposed to the current 3 tier model). Making the paper content easier (in the context of
extra grade b questions etc.) but setting a higher grade boundary will ensure that it is impossible
to get, for an example, a grade A without any real ability in algebra.

[q2]> >Regarding A level there is already an effective A* grade - the Advanced Extension Award was[/q2]
[q2]> >introduced to identify those A grade students who[/q2]
have
[q2]> >exceptional mathematical skills.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> In what sense is this effective?[/q1]

I meant effective in the sense that it differentiates between A grade students based on their
mathematical ability on the main maths topics - that is there is no need for extra content to
be taught.

The grade A students will be split into 3 (Distinction, Merit and fail) allowing (in effect) three
different A grades - A**, A* and A. i would have felt this would meet some of your needs as an
admissions tutor.

[q1]> Firstly, there's a chicken-and-egg problem -- we can't ask for it until[/q1]
almost all
[q1]> schools offer it, and schools won't want to commit resources to it until[/q1]
univs are
[q1]> asking for it.[/q1]

This is an important issue. I feel that, by setting the exam on content which is part of the main
maths core, but setting more involved questions testing knowledge to a far gretaer depth than can be
done in 80 minute exams they are trying to ensure that schools are able to offer it without having
to fund special classes etc.

I have set some of the questions from the trial paper to my more able mathematicians as homeworks -
they have gone away and struggled, thought, considered and tried things and eventually come up with
good solutions without any additional teaching.

A more experienced colleague said the questions were more like "proper" A level questions
from the past.

[q1]> Secondly, it's yet another way in which schools with large sixth-forms and lots of resources will[/q1]
[q1]> be able to do better than the relatively-disadvantaged.[/q1]

I feel that the way the AEA has been set up to avoid the need for extra teaching attempts to limit
this issue which I agree is important. I hope, that as things settle down, most colleges & schools
will take this opportunity up.

I know some Uni's insist on A level Further Maths for entry onto a course. This does require
considerable extra teaching time (with money implications) and does prevent many smaller schools &
colleges from offering the course. Our Year 12 we have a group of 5 doing Further maths - for next
year we had just 2 applicants and were unable to run the course.

I'm unsure how this fits in with your statement that you can't ask for AEAs unless all schools do
them? Do Nottingham still ask for Further Maths? If so couldn't you ask for AEA's also?

[q1]> Thirdly, it's Yet Another Exam.[/q1]

Yup! No getting away from that.

[q2]> > It is based on the core PURE content of A level (no new topics) but asks non standard[/q2]
[q2]> > questions in order to differentiate between students.[/q2]

[q1]> Right. So. like STEP, it will produce students who are good at Olympiad-stype questions and[/q1]
[q1]> crosswords, and will bear no relation to practical mathematics.[/q1]

I don't know if you've had the opportunity to look at an AEA paper - it's most recent trail is on
the EdExcel website - the old trial is on the QCA website somewhere. I suggest it may be of
interest to you.

I feel that the paper does test practical mathematics skills as opposed to the Olympiad questions
and crosswords which do not. I wish I had a copy of the paper here now - I can only recall one
queston clearly and that is on Mechanics which is no longer on the AEA paper but does illustrate a
point I hope.

In the A level modules a typical question may ask a student to find the range of a projectile
delivered with a given angle of projection and velocity. The question may be worth 5 marks and take
about 8 minutes including some other associated aside questions.

On the AEA paper there was also a question on projectiles. The time allowed was approx 25-30 minutes
and was certainly more involved (but still only used the skills from the main modules). I recall
there being a part about a ball being thrown at a given angle towards a bin of given size. You were
asked to find the range of velocities for which the ball would land in the bin. Similarly given a
fixed velocity what angles of launch would make the ball hit the bin.

I havn't done the question jusitice but it involved a variety of skills brought together to solve a
problem of greater complexity than would be possible in an 80 minute paper where 7 or 8 questions
need to be set.

I would appreicate your views on the AEA papers if you have time to look. I feel that they are a
valid way to differentiate between A grade students based on mathematics skills from the syllabus.

[q1]> And, like STEP, the first year will produce some interesting new questions, and thereafter[/q1]
[q1]> students will be trained how to do them.[/q1]

This I have no experience of. I'm coming across STEPS for the first time at the moment - one of our
students wants to go to Cambridge to do Maths.

Steve
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