There should be A*s at A Level Watch

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Richard Magrath
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"steve.wren" <[email protected]> wrote in message
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[q2]> > The whole upper end is saturated. What would you prefer, extra 'super-papers'?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> the AEA is basically a revamped version of the old "special papers".[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

If I wanted to take an AEA in English, which I think would be quite interesting, how would I go
about it bearing in mind the school don't offer them and aren't even considering doing so in the
future? I wouldn't want to pay good money to sit an exam outside school, and I don't fancy my
results being automatically sent to the univeristy of my choice (which is what I read somewhere
happens) in case I'm really not as clever as I regularly tell people that I am.

Rich
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Brian Sloan
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[q1]> Did you really? Good job you said: I absolutely needed that 35th mention[/q1]
of
[q1]> it for it to finally sink in...[/q1]

I apologise most sincerely. I wasn't conciously trying to be bigheaded, but I wasn't sure people
would remember me across posts. I promise not to mention it again.

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K. Edgcombe
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In article <[email protected] sting.google.com>, Davido <[email protected]> wrote:
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>As for evidence, there are numerous reports of how if there's a state school & a private school kid[/q1]
[q1]>with the same grades, the state school kid has a much better chance of getting a 1st / 2:1.[/q1]

Evidence, please?

This is exactly the reverse of what someone (John?) has just been saying in another thread. Such
statistics as I have (on smallish numbers) suggest that there's little in it either way; to the
extent that there is anything in it, the correlation is the reverse of what you say.

Katy
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Matthew M. Hunt
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Mark Thakkar ([email protected]) wrote:

[q2]> > I admit lots of ppl from the 'elitist' schools every year and we've had a moderately good[/q2]
[q2]> > correlation of A levels with class of degree. What is disturbing is that the correlation of A[/q2]
[q2]> > level scores of u/gs from comprehensive with degree class is not as good. This is partly because[/q2]
[q2]> > they are not as well suited to university study as the rather more independently minded (and[/q2]
[q2]> > over self-confident) indy u/gs. A large rnuber leave. It's puzzling.[/q2]

[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]> Do any of our other university types have any experience of this correlation, either way?[/q1]

I did a correlation of final degree marks against A-level points for this year's graduates, and
got quite a good one - 0.49. Impressed with this, I tried last year's a got no significant
correlation - 0.05.

In fact, the figures are skewed, for at least two reasons:

1) They do not take account of those who never made it to the final year (disproportionately
with lower grades, though again I'd have to do a proper stats analysis to be able to say this
for sure).

2) They do not take account of the fact that students we have with lower grades are likely to have
been carefully selected on the basis of other attributes, and are thus not a random selection of
everyone who applied who gets those grades.

As per usual with this newsgroup, I'm rather fed up with the way most contributors seem to come from
and seem obsessed by the tiny handful of places right at the top end of the univesity system - all
this worry about multiple A grades, all this talk of people from the most exclusive private schools.

In my case, I don't think I have enough students from well-known independent schools to be able to
say anything significant about such people. We have a few students from less notable independent
schools, but the reality is these places aren't that much different in A-level performance from many
council schools in the leafier parts of the country. Thus, I reject completely the sort of snobbery
(but it's probably just naivety) which thinks "Independent school" must mean Eton, or Winchester or
the like, while "state school" must mean the most deprived sort of inner city slump school.

In practice, the dilemma I might face is between choosing from a council school of a leafy suburb
with BCC grades where BCC is the sort of thing most pupils there get, and choosing someone from an
school in a deprived inner city area with CCC grades, where CCC is likely to mean s/he is one the
school's best performer of the year.

If I am quite sure of the facts, I might just go for the CCC person here. But I think I would
want to see an excellent reference for the CCC person and an indifferent one for the BCC person
to make sure.

Matthew Huntbach
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Dr A. N. Walker
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In article <[email protected] sting.google.com>, Richard Magrath
<[email protected]> wrote:
[q1]>To extend that theory, I was going to suggest that the A* grade be awarded only for maths/science[/q1]
[q1]>subjects, or any other subject where there are definite right and wrong answers.[/q1]

There are often problems about whether an answer is right or wrong. But far more
important is what to do with answers -- the vast majority -- that are wrong but contain
elements of rightness. If you think the resulting marks are in any way objective, you're
very much mistaken.

--
Andy Walker, School of MathSci., Univ. of Nott'm, UK. [email protected]
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Dr A. N. Walker
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#86
In article <[email protected] sting.google.com>, Richard Magrath
<[email protected]> wrote:
[q1]>Could you tell the difference between a 41/50 and a 42/50 essay?[/q1]

If the difference matters, then the resulting scripts need to be looked at more carefully.

[q1]>On the other hand, if you gave a piece of maths work to 100 different teachers, even accounting for[/q1]
[q1]>mistakes they might make, they would agree on the marks far more than the English teachers would.[/q1]

The evidence is against you. One of the "study skills" exercises we do with our students, as
part of teaching them to write maths properly, is to give them some student solutions to
exam questions and invite them to critique and mark them. Given an essay and a list of
criteria, they can usually agree on whether the essay is good, bad or indifferent, and they
can rank five or six of them in a reasonably consistent order. Given a selection of "trad"
maths questions, they really have no idea, even after discussion of where the solutions are
right or wrong against the given criteria.

[q1]>I'm just saying that on a detailed points out of 50 scale it's much harder to get an accurate[/q1]
[q1]>score, and so if there *were* A* grades at A-level, then there would be too much importance placed[/q1]
[q1]>on the accuracy of marking.[/q1]

Actually, it's much easier to mark the really excellent scripts than the middling scripts.
An A*/A borderline script is likely to be much more accurately marked than a B/C borderline.

--
Andy Walker, School of MathSci., Univ. of Nott'm, UK. [email protected]
0
Richard Magrath
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Three things:

1. Sure, I'll accept I'm wrong about the English/Maths divide. It's not like I spent my free time
down at Whitehall campaigning about it!

2. It's very American, but why not introduce the +/- system? Keep the grades as they are now, but
add a + or - after the letter to indicate whether the candidate scraped or excelled. For top unis
this would be helpful, as you could distinguish between candidates with A-, A and A+, and at unis
with lower entrance qualifications they could tell those who only just scraped a pass from those
a few marks away from a
D.

3. I have to say, I still prefer the idea of more attainable A grades and then having interviews
sort the candidates out, but that's just my opinion. I'd rather have a real university fellow
decide how good my work is and how talented I am (or am not) than an AQA examiner with a
checklist and about two minutes to spare. That's just my opinion though.

Rich
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Steve.Wren
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[q2]> > b) the fact that only a limited number of subjects are currently able to[/q2]
be
[q2]> > taken at AEA level - i think there is a slow roll out program so that eventually all A level[/q2]
[q2]> > subjects will be covered.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> I was going to pick up on this point. How can those of us who don't do maths show our flair in[/q1]
[q1]> other subjects?[/q1]

The current list of subjects offered at AEA level are

Biology and Biology (human) Geography Physics Chemistry German Religious studies Critical thinking*
(draft) History Spanish Economics Irish Welsh English Latin Welsh Second Language French Mathematics

In each AEA there are 3 possible grades - Distinction, Merit and Fail.

Steve
0
Will Grout
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"Richard Magrath" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]> "steve.wren" <[email protected]> wrote in message[/q1]
news:<[email protected] 8-gui.server.ntli.net>...
[q3]> > > The whole upper end is saturated. What would you prefer, extra 'super-papers'?[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > the AEA is basically a revamped version of the old "special papers".[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> If I wanted to take an AEA in English, which I think would be quite interesting, how would I go[/q1]
[q1]> about it bearing in mind the school don't offer them and aren't even considering doing so in the[/q1]
[q1]> future? I wouldn't want to pay good money to sit an exam outside school, and I don't fancy my[/q1]
[q1]> results being automatically sent to the univeristy of my choice (which is what I read somewhere[/q1]
[q1]> happens) in case I'm really not as clever as I regularly tell people that I am.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Rich[/q1]

surely, if you spoke to the head of department (english in this case, obv) they'd be able to
accommodate you? especially if, most likely, the decision not to offer is based around inability to
provide 'extra' support for AEA students due to all the changes with C2000 (as discussed above).
0
Brian Sloan
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[q1]> To see how utterly wrong you are, suppose you're at Winchester, taking five A-levels. What more[/q1]
[q1]> can you do than get AAAAA? If the point's not yet home, suppose you're Albert Einstein, but you've[/q1]
[q1]> gone to Winchester. Meanwhile someone far less intelligent has gone to a state school. Naturally[/q1]
[q1]> you get straight As [1] - but you don't get in, because you've been "spoon-fed" and are obviously[/q1]
[q1]> likely to do worse at degree level.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> The comparatively sensible argument runs as follows: suppose you have two candidates, one of whom[/q1]
[q1]> has got AAB from an inner-city state school, and the other of whom has got AAB from Winchester.[/q1]
[q1]> /Then/, again as a generalization, the person who's got AAB from the inner-city state school[/q1]
[q1]> should be favoured over the person who's got AAB from Winchester.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> The difference is that in this case the Winchester student has not performed as well as the[/q1]
[q1]> admissions tutor in question would like, given that he went to an extremely[/q1]
[q1]> good[-at-extracting-good-grades] school.[/q1]

Excellent points!

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Matthew M. Hunt
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Dr A. N. Walker ([email protected]) wrote:
[q1]> In article <o33kgugt0583v60slfb21q5v31rlfm6 [email protected]>, Danny[/q1]
[q1]> <[email protected]?.mo c> wrote:[/q1]

[q2]> >I sympathise with both sides of the argument. All I'm saying is give people a chance who get[/q2]
[q2]> >slightly lower grades, don't let grades be the be all and end all.[/q2]

[q1]> Admissions doesn't work like that. We don't know enough about applicants to be able to make[/q1]
[q1]> interestingly-differential offers, for the most part. Indeed, the pressures are on us from[/q1]
[q1]> UCAS and the guides to state clearly what our offer [singular] is.[/q1]

Agreed. There is more and more pressure on us to justify everything we do, from admissions to degree
classes. When any exercise of personal discretion is likely to bring an appeal from an aggrieved
person who wasn't shown the same favour, the safe thing to do is just to rely on the grades.

Matthew Huntbach
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Ginnie Redston
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"Dr A. N. Walker" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
[q1]> In article <[email protected] sting.google.com>, Richard Magrath[/q1]
[q1]> <[email protected]> wrote:[/q1]
[q2]> >Could you tell the difference between a 41/50 and a 42/50 essay?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> If the difference matters, then the resulting scripts need to be looked at more carefully.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]> >On the other hand, if you gave a piece of maths work to 100 different teachers, even[/q2]
[q2]> >accounting for mistakes they might make, they would agree on the marks far more than the[/q2]
[q2]> >English teachers would.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> The evidence is against you. One of the "study skills" exercises we do with our students, as part[/q1]
[q1]> of teaching them to write maths properly, is to give them some student solutions to exam questions[/q1]
[q1]> and invite them to critique and mark them. Given an essay and a list of criteria, they can usually[/q1]
[q1]> agree on whether the essay is good, bad or indifferent, and they can rank five or six of them in a[/q1]
[q1]> reasonably consistent order. Given a selection of "trad" maths questions, they really have no[/q1]
[q1]> idea, even after discussion of where the solutions are right or wrong against the given criteria.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]> >I'm just saying that on a detailed points out of 50 scale it's much harder to get an accurate[/q2]
[q2]> >score, and so if there *were* A* grades at A-level, then there would be too much importance[/q2]
[q2]> >placed on the accuracy of marking.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Actually, it's much easier to mark the really excellent scripts than the middling scripts. An A*/A[/q1]
[q1]> borderline script is likely to be much more accurately marked than a B/C borderline.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
Agreed ...and as for ploughing through (and then ranking) Ds and Es at A level...... oh dear. That's
why the marking takes so long.

Ginnie www.scintillae.org.uk
0
Ian/Cath Ford
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On 17 Jun 2002 16:07:43 GMT, [email protected] (Dr A. N. Walker) wrote:

[q1]> The evidence is against you. One of the "study skills" exercises we do with our students, as[/q1]
[q1]> part of teaching them to write maths properly, is to give them some student solutions to[/q1]
[q1]> exam questions and invite them to critique and mark them. Given an essay and a list of[/q1]
[q1]> criteria, they can usually agree on whether the essay is good, bad or indifferent, and they[/q1]
[q1]> can rank five or six of them in a reasonably consistent order. Given a selection of "trad"[/q1]
[q1]> maths questions, they really have no idea, even after discussion of where the solutions are[/q1]
[q1]> right or wrong against the given criteria.[/q1]

How many people have done something like this at school then? I ask because it's an excellent
learning technique (and, Andy, I'm really impressed that unis (or, at least, you) are doing this
sort of thing).

Ian
--
Ian, Cath & Eoin Ford The view from Beccles

Support clubs against Carlton & Granada: Boycott ITV world cup coverage.

You know what to do: delete the dots but leave the .s to reply to us.
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Jhp
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Richard Magrath <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]> Three things:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> 1. Sure, I'll accept I'm wrong about the English/Maths divide. It's not like I spent my free time[/q1]
[q1]> down at Whitehall campaigning about it![/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> 2. It's very American, but why not introduce the +/- system? Keep the grades as they are now, but[/q1]
[q1]> add a + or - after the letter to indicate whether the candidate scraped or excelled. For top[/q1]
[q1]> unis this would be helpful, as you could distinguish between candidates with A-, A and A+, and[/q1]
[q1]> at unis with lower entrance qualifications they could tell those who only just scraped a pass[/q1]
[q1]> from those a few marks away from a[/q1]
[q1]> D.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> 3. I have to say, I still prefer the idea of more attainable A grades and then having interviews[/q1]
[q1]> sort the candidates out, but that's just my opinion. I'd rather have a real university fellow[/q1]
[q1]> decide how good my work is and how talented I am (or am not) than an AQA examiner with a[/q1]
[q1]> checklist and about two minutes to spare. That's just my opinion though.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Rich[/q1]

What do you mean? 'More attainable A grades' means that we will get more A grade candidates and
those who are better than A (as presently measured) are disadvantaged. And as for us assessing your
school work - I;m afraid you have no idea how little I know about my subject at school level. It all
seems immensely trivial to me, but that's school Business Studies for you. I'd stick to the people
who know, the secondary school teachers. John
0
Mark Thakkar
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Davido,

[q1]> Student who gets AAA from Winchester All friends have a positive attitude and motivate each other.[/q1]
[q1]> They love work.[/q1]

!

[q1]> Also, the opportunity for various extracurricular activities - cricket, rugby, debating society...[/q1]

...which are paramount as far as getting good grades is concerned.

Mark.
0
Brackets
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"steve.wren" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q3]> > > b) the fact that only a limited number of subjects are currently able[/q3]
to
[q1]> be[/q1]
[q3]> > > taken at AEA level - i think there is a slow roll out program so that eventually all A level[/q3]
[q3]> > > subjects will be covered.[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > I was going to pick up on this point. How can those of us who don't do maths show our flair in[/q2]
[q2]> > other subjects?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> The current list of subjects offered at AEA level are[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Biology and Biology (human) Geography Physics Chemistry German Religious studies Critical[/q1]
[q1]> thinking* (draft) History Spanish Economics Irish Welsh English Latin Welsh Second Language French[/q1]
[q1]> Mathematics[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> In each AEA there are 3 possible grades - Distinction, Merit and Fail.[/q1]

I take your point, although it still doesn't entirely solve the problem, I certainly don't do any of
the subjects on there, and I'm certain I've never heard my school mention AEA's, even if they do
allow us to do them.

--
Alex Studders Greggers Brackets
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Jhp
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Brackets <[email protected] com> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "Richard Magrath" <[email protected]> wrote in message[/q1]
[q1]> news:[email protected]...[/q1]
[q2]> > [email protected] (Davido) wrote in message[/q2]
[q1]> news:<b74f6c67.0206150115.5fd8e9 [email protected]>...[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >But above about 90% - most of it is down to exam technique, and the[/q3]
[q1]> way you[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >have been taught rather than your actual ability at the subject.[/q3]
Some
[q1]> people[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >who have perfect exam technique and get straight 100's are often[/q3]
not
[q1]> that[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >much cleverer than the people who get a random scatter of marks in[/q3]
[q1]> the low[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >80's. So i think having an A* would mean too much emphasis would be[/q3]
[q1]> placed[/q1]
[q3]> > > > >on how you are taught.[/q3]
[q3]> > >[/q3]
[q3]> > > eesh ive caused a bit of a stir havent i, 40 posts in half a day.[/q3]
[q3]> > >[/q3]
[q3]> > > But looking at Rob Martin's comments I hate to say that makes perfect sense. As it is, instead[/q3]
[q3]> > > of enjoying the books for AS Literature and getting B grades, I have spent the last week when[/q3]
[q3]> > > doing my A Levels with a poster on my wall of the mark scheme, making sure I get all the[/q3]
[q3]> > > "Assessment Objectives" that AQA require into my essay, and that I mathematically distribute[/q3]
[q3]> > > my comments according to their respective weightings... This shows success at the top end has[/q3]
[q3]> > > nowt to do with how good you are but how well you follow the system. However in Maths I think[/q3]
[q3]> > > the higher you do the better you are.[/q3]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > To extend that theory, I was going to suggest that the A* grade be awarded only for[/q2]
[q2]> > maths/science subjects, or any other subject where there are definite right and wrong answers.[/q2]
[q2]> > A-levels as English and, um, similar ones are just too subjective.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Wouldn't that promote even more favouratism in favour (hmm.) of the[/q1]
science
[q1]> based subjects? An A in English would be looked on as worse than an A* in maths, even though the[/q1]
[q1]> marks were the same. Pupils who wanted to get the best looking results would be forced to do[/q1]
[q1]> science based subjects, since they wouldn't be able to show off as well in the essay based ones.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> --[/q1]
[q1]> Alex Studders Greggers Brackets[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
What is the problem with subjectivity, exactly? I can tell very quickly whether an essay in my topic
is excellent or just very good and part of that is because I have spent years reading such stuff.
Just because I can't explain the exact rules doesn't mean it's arbitrary or personalised or such.

John
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Richard Magrath
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"Brackets" <[email protected] com> wrote in message
news:<[email protected]>...

[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > To extend that theory, I was going to suggest that the A* grade be awarded only for[/q2]
[q2]> > maths/science subjects, or any other subject where there are definite right and wrong answers.[/q2]
[q2]> > A-levels as English and, um, similar ones are just too subjective.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Wouldn't that promote even more favouratism in favour (hmm.) of the science based subjects? An A[/q1]
[q1]> in English would be looked on as worse than an A* in maths, even though the marks were the same.[/q1]
[q1]> Pupils who wanted to get the best looking results would be forced to do science based subjects,[/q1]
[q1]> since they wouldn't be able to show off as well in the essay based ones.[/q1]

But isn't there already favouritism for science and engineering degrees at university? Isn't the
government positively trying to get more people to take science and maths A-levels? Wasn't the whole
Curriculum 2000 thing in part an attempt to get more people to do maths?

I'm an arts student (though not an art student) and I'd support the above, if A* grades had to be
introduced. Science students need some way to boost their confidence anyway - when I'm in an English
lesson, I feel really cool, all the hip people are there, lessons are really loose and fun. When I'm
in a physics lesson, people (students from lower down the school, Years 7-9) stick their heads round
the door and shout "sad *******s!" at us.

Of course, as with any drastic change of the school system, especially one which involves it all
becoming much harder, I would suggest that it only comes into practice *after* I leave...

Rich
0
Matthew M. Hunt
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#99
Stuart Williams ([email protected]) wrote:
[q1]> In article <[email protected]>,[/q1]
[q1]> [email protected] .co.uk says...[/q1]

[q2]> > The alternative (which we've explored here on occasion is to have fully discounted system where[/q2]
[q2]> > we admit n some specious unmeasured estimate of 'potential'. That's not what universities are[/q2]
[q2]> > about. We are not responsible for the school system; we have enough trouble maintaining academic[/q2]
[q2]> > standards in our own institutions.[/q2]

[q1]> This is not offered in any confrontational way, but I couldn't disagree more profoundly: the[/q1]
[q1]> universities do drive the school system at 16+ in a way which is all-pervasive. Is there anyone on[/q1]
[q1]> this group who thinks that universities are /not/ in effect responsible for the school system?[/q1]

Yes, but the specific problem of having too many grade A candidates is one faced by only a small
minority of university departments. For the vast majority of university departments, there are
plenty of other more pressing issues, and we'd be very very happy if we got to the position of
having so many grade A applicants that we needed to worry how to distinguish them.

[q1]> I agree that A levels have been watered down to the point that they are not a particularly good[/q1]
[q1]> discriminator at the A/B level - so why don't you start setting your own tests? - (a much more[/q1]
[q1]> productive use of Open Days than just meeting the lecturers and looking at the facilities, IMHO).[/q1]

If serious use is going to be made of such tests, then it involves a major commitment of resources.
The top universities are precisely those whose academics would much rather spend their time on
research than teaching related issues, like devising and marking entrance exams.

Matthew Huntbach
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Jhp
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#100
Report 17 years ago
#100
[q1]> Agreed. There is more and more pressure on us to justify everything we do, from admissions to[/q1]
[q1]> degree classes. When any exercise of personal discretion is likely to bring an appeal from an[/q1]
[q1]> aggrieved person who wasn't shown the same favour, the safe thing to do is just to rely on[/q1]
[q1]> the grades.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Matthew Huntbach[/q1]

We now have to double video all final year project vivas in case the examiners get together and
victimize a candidate. Amazing. John
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