A-Levels

Old Aug 16th 2007, 9:14 pm
  #46  
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Default Re: A-Levels

Just print up your own degree ..it saves all that effort ...
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Old Aug 16th 2007, 10:29 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by Redlippie
Cambridge U. is currently working with Eton and the other toff schools, to introduce a new qualification which shall be called Pre-U or something along the lines as they're utterly fed up with the A-level sub-standards. Or so I have read.
Yep, the Cambridge Pre-U is being introduced next year.
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 6:47 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

I always love the reply from current students that its because they have to work harder to get into Uni. If you wanted to do Law or Medicine etc. in the 80's and early 90's you still needed straight A's. Do they not think those people had to work hard!!

I went to Uni from 1990-93 and again from 2004-2006. Unless I have become more intelligent the standard has definitely been lowered. I studied with students who had come straight from their Undergrad courses who has straight A's and there is no way that they would have been capable of straight A's in the 1980's style A'Levels I took.
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 7:51 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by GarethR
The universities certainly think that exams are getting easier.

For the last few years, many unis have been complaining that they're having to lay on remedial classes in all their major subjects to bring their new intake of undergrads - even the ones with multiple A-grades - up to the standard that *used* to be taken for granted among new entrants.
But again, this could be as much a problem with the subjects becoming broader and so missing on some depth - it doesn't necessarily mean easier. (I studied game theory during A Level maths, something that certainly wasn't in the curriculum ten years earlier, for example.)

My uni certainly didn't and doesn't have any problems with having to run remedial classes...

Once upon a time, if you had a A-grade A-level, it *guaranteed* a certain level of academic achievement and ability. It doesn't any more, which is why I believe some unis are even considering introducing their own entrance exams, so that they can sort out the A-grade students who are actually good from the A-grade students who are crap and who wouldn't have been given A-grades under the old, stricter marking system.
... and when I went to uni eleven years ago, I had to sit an entrance exam to get in - an exam that had been runnning for twenty-odd years None of this is new. It's been the same old story in the papers year after year for as long as I can remember. The A-grade A Level never guaranteed a thing other than the ability of a student to pull a few right answers out of their backside on the day of the exam. Your nostalgia is seriously misguiding you if you think the A Level was ever that good. How a student performs at 18 isn't always a good indicator of how the same student will perform at 21 when it comes to finals!

But then, it's been demonstrated more than once that if you give modern students old-style exams (covering questions that they *ought* to be able to answer) and mark them as strictly as they used to be marked, all the kids crash and burn big-time - even the ones predicted for multiple A-grades under the modern system.
But that's a very unequal test because you can't reverse it. Who knows how students educated under the older system would have coped with the current papers? If they did crash and burn (as I'd expect, having not covered half the things that the exam would test), what have you proven?
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 10:00 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by typical
But again, this could be as much a problem with the subjects becoming broader and so missing on some depth
My mother, a retired teacher, knows someone who has been marking A-level papers for over 20 years. It is a *fact* that the markers have been instructed to be more lenient in the last seven years. It's part of a deliberate political policy to get more people into university, even though it has meant the devaluation of the A-level.

My uni certainly didn't and doesn't have any problems with having to run remedial classes...
Good for it. Other universities aren't so lucky.

Do a bit of Googling - the last major swathe of stories were naturally from this time last year, although undoubtedly there'll soon be a fresh batch of stories for 2007 - and you'll see how difficult it is for the universities to be fair. They want the best students, but they can't rely on A-grades to provide them with that any more.

... and when I went to uni eleven years ago, I had to sit an entrance exam to get in - an exam that had been runnning for twenty-odd years
Which university? You weren't aiming for Mode E entrance to Oxford, were you?

None of this is new. It's been the same old story in the papers year after year for as long as I can remember
In that case, you can only remember back about seven years. That's when the last significant meddling happened to the A-level system, and that's when the complaints really started that the A-level was becoming devalued as the "gold standard" qualification.

Indeed, when *I* sat my A-levels in 1989, there was absolutely no controversy about grade inflation, because it didn't exist. Marking was far less lenient, so you only got an A-grade if you were really outstanding. The mantra back then was "If you can pass your A-levels, a degree will be easier" - and it was. These days, undergrads are finding A-levels easier and degrees concomitantly harder; A-levels are not as rigorous as they used to be, while degrees are no more difficult.

The A-grade A Level never guaranteed a thing other than the ability of a student to pull a few right answers out of their backside on the day of the exam
Again, bollocks. You could pass O-levels by pulling a few right answers out of your backside, sure (I did most of my O-level revision the night before each exam, and I got mostly A's and B's), but A-levels were a different proposition entirely. I know, I was there.

Your nostalgia is seriously misguiding you if you think the A Level was ever that good
So the universities are also "seriously misguided" by "nostalgia" when they complain that the A-level no longer represents the gold standard, are they?

Thrice bollocks. You're not the UK Education Minister on holiday, are you?

How a student performs at 18 isn't always a good indicator of how the same student will perform at 21 when it comes to finals!
Screw the finals - universities are finding that students are unable to cope as soon as they walk in the door at 18, hence the need for remedial classes to bring them up to the standard that used to be taken for granted for new undergrads.

But that's a very unequal test because you can't reverse it
You're completely missing the point. It's not unequal at all; the questions from the past papers were carefully selected to ensure that they only covered subjects that the students had been taught and ought to have known the answers to - obviously, there would have been no point in setting them questions about parts of the curriculum that disappeared 20 years ago.

The major difference was that the marks were applied according to the older, more rigorous criteria. And the results were embarrassing for an awful lot of students who were predicted straight A's under the modern marking system.
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 10:22 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by Ray
Just print up your own degree ..it saves all that effort ...
speaking of which, when taking a job in dubai I heard that you have to bring all your certificates....

is that degree only or everything from nursery school?
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 10:32 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by Cham128
speaking of which, when taking a job in dubai I heard that you have to bring all your certificates....

is that degree only or everything from nursery school?
I just sent my relevant Postgrad certificate. But it had to be attested by the Foreign Ofiice and UAE embassy in London which was a pain!
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 10:47 am
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by GarethR
My mother, a retired teacher, knows someone who has been marking A-level papers for over 20 years. It is a *fact* that the markers have been instructed to be more lenient in the last seven years.
Odd how my uncle who was a chief examiner reports no such thing... (both my parents are retired teachers too, so this is not purely my personal experience). In fact, if anything, the reports I've heard is that "marking to the mark scheme" has become more common - i.e. not giving students the marks if they come up with 'right' answers which aren't covered in the examiner's guide.

Do a bit of Googling - the last major swathe of stories were naturally from this time last year, although undoubtedly there'll soon be a fresh batch of stories for 2007 - and you'll see how difficult it is for the universities to be fair. They want the best students, but they can't rely on A-grades to provide them with that any more.
What makes you think they ever could rely on them? And let's not forget that universities haven't stood still either. There are vastly more students going to university now to do a much wider range of degrees (thanks to successive governments having absolutely no clue how to implement proper vocational training, but that's another topic).

Which university? You weren't aiming for Mode E entrance to Oxford, were you?
I don't even know what Mode E entry is.

In that case, you can only remember back about seven years. That's when the last significant meddling happened to the A-level system, and that's when the complaints really started that the A-level was becoming devalued as the "gold standard" qualification.
You're funny.

"NEW INQUIRY ORDERED INTO 'EASY' A LEVELS" - Guardian, August 16 1995
"Easier A-levels hide the failings of girls" - Sunday Times, October 2 1994
"How 'easier' A-levels devalue degrees" - Sunday Times, October 14 1990

In fact, let's read a little of that last report - remember this is from SEVENTEEN years ago:

UNIVERSITIES are lowering their entrance requirements and lengthening degree courses because of a significant drop in A-level standards. London's Imperial College, which has an international reputation for science and technology, is breaking tradition to add an extra year to its engineering courses.

The college, which will announce the switch to four-year degrees next week, is running remedial classes for undergraduates who have failed to learn the basic principles of mathematics and physics at school.


Seventeen years ago! Now tell me all this fuss is new.

Indeed, when *I* sat my A-levels in 1989, there was absolutely no controversy about grade inflation, because it didn't exist. Marking was far less lenient, so you only got an A-grade if you were really outstanding.
You were either a year too early, or the newspaper archives I have access to only go back as far as 1990

"Grade inflation" itself became a hot topic with the introduction of GCSEs. Clearly by 1990 the concept was being applied to A-levels too. But nice for you if you've convinced yourself that YOUR exams were sound and only the younger students had it easer

Again, bollocks. You could pass O-levels by pulling a few right answers out of your backside, sure (I did most of my O-level revision the night before each exam, and I got mostly A's and B's), but A-levels were a different proposition entirely. I know, I was there.
I started preparing for my first A Level in 1992, and did past papers from back before you took yours. I certainly didn't notice that the old ones were harder.

So the universities are also "seriously misguided" by "nostalgia" when they complain that the A-level no longer represents the gold standard, are they?
But they've been complaining about this for nearly twenty years! They can hardly say today "ten years ago everything was ok" if ten years ago they had exactly the same complaints...

Screw the finals - universities are finding that students are unable to cope as soon as they walk in the door at 18, hence the need for remedial classes to bring them up to the standard that used to be taken for granted for new undergrads.
Which they started giving NEARLY TWENTY YEARS AGO.

You're completely missing the point. It's not unequal at all; the questions from the past papers were carefully selected to ensure that they only covered subjects that the students had been taught and ought to have known the answers to - obviously, there would have been no point in setting them questions about parts of the curriculum that disappeared 20 years ago.

The major difference was that the marks were applied according to the older, more rigorous criteria. And the results were embarrassing for an awful lot of students who were predicted straight A's under the modern marking system.
It's not the study I've seen, then. Cite?
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 1:41 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by Ray
Just print up your own degree ..it saves all that effort ...
yeah, but then you miss out on all that student fun...!!

MM, xx
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 1:46 pm
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Originally Posted by typical
Odd how my uncle who was a chief examiner reports no such thing...
Oh, but of *course* he's a chief examiner

What makes you think they ever could rely on them?
The anecdotal experiences of universities and employers themselves, for one thing.

I don't even know what Mode E entry is
There used to be two modes of entry to Oxford, Mode E and Mode N. Mode N was the traditional system based on your predicted A-level grades and the results of an interview; if they made you an offer, it was naturally conditional upon you gaining those predicted grades.

Mode E was more involved and required a special entrance exam; if you passed that, you were invited for interview, and if you passed *that*, then they'd decided that they definitely wanted you, and so all you had to do was matriculate - in other words, gain two E-grades at A-level.

I passed the entrance exam, but fell down at the interview. Probably just as well - you actually have to *work* at Oxford, what with the short terms and heavy study load.

So which university did you go to?

Seventeen years ago! Now tell me all this fuss is new.
What you're overlooking, of course, is that it's all relative. When they were saying "A-levels are easier" in 1995, they were still one hell of a lot harder than they are now. The really big drop, the drop that convinced the universities that A-levels had lost all value as a method of discriminating between the academic abilities of students, occurred seven years ago.

But nice for you if you've convinced yourself that YOUR exams were sound and only the younger students had it easer
Let me try and put it another way : My lot are probably thicker than the ones before us, you're probably thicker than we were, and the current lot are *definitely* thicker than you.

I started preparing for my first A Level in 1992, and did past papers from back before you took yours. I certainly didn't notice that the old ones were harder
In 1992, you wouldn't. And, most importantly, the marking schemes would have been different too.

It's not the study I've seen, then. Cite?
If you've got the TDA, you've got the means to find it yourself. Self-directed learning - it's the keystone of a successful university career, you know

If it helps, it was also used as the basis for the documentary series "That'll Teach 'Em" a few years ago in the UK; a group of students who were awaiting their GCSE results, all of whom were predicted A's or A*'s, voluntarily took mock exams based on past O-level papers (questions selected to match what they'd been taught at GCSE) and were marked according to the O-level criteria.

It was a massacre
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 2:26 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by GarethR
Oh, but of *course* he's a chief examiner


The anecdotal experiences of universities and employers themselves, for one thing.


There used to be two modes of entry to Oxford, Mode E and Mode N. Mode N was the traditional system based on your predicted A-level grades and the results of an interview; if they made you an offer, it was naturally conditional upon you gaining those predicted grades.

Mode E was more involved and required a special entrance exam; if you passed that, you were invited for interview, and if you passed *that*, then they'd decided that they definitely wanted you, and so all you had to do was matriculate - in other words, gain two E-grades at A-level.

I passed the entrance exam, but fell down at the interview. Probably just as well - you actually have to *work* at Oxford, what with the short terms and heavy study load.

So which university did you go to?


What you're overlooking, of course, is that it's all relative. When they were saying "A-levels are easier" in 1995, they were still one hell of a lot harder than they are now. The really big drop, the drop that convinced the universities that A-levels had lost all value as a method of discriminating between the academic abilities of students, occurred seven years ago.


Let me try and put it another way : My lot are probably thicker than the ones before us, you're probably thicker than we were, and the current lot are *definitely* thicker than you.


In 1992, you wouldn't. And, most importantly, the marking schemes would have been different too.


If you've got the TDA, you've got the means to find it yourself. Self-directed learning - it's the keystone of a successful university career, you know

If it helps, it was also used as the basis for the documentary series "That'll Teach 'Em" a few years ago in the UK; a group of students who were awaiting their GCSE results, all of whom were predicted A's or A*'s, voluntarily took mock exams based on past O-level papers (questions selected to match what they'd been taught at GCSE) and were marked according to the O-level criteria.

It was a massacre
could everyone please put there pen!ses away? this is a family forum after all
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 2:32 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by GarethR
Oh, but of *course* he's a chief examiner
Aah, that's where the rolleyes smiley is. And he's not any more - and he's had plenty to say about other failings! That said, he was doing it for Physics, which only now is getting the crappy "let's talk about how you feel" makeover (especially at GCSE, which IS shocking. http://www.wellingtongrey.net/miscel...w-physics.html )

There used to be two modes of entry to Oxford, Mode E and Mode N. Mode N was the traditional system based on your predicted A-level grades and the results of an interview; if they made you an offer, it was naturally conditional upon you gaining those predicted grades.

Mode E was more involved and required a special entrance exam; if you passed that, you were invited for interview, and if you passed *that*, then they'd decided that they definitely wanted you, and so all you had to do was matriculate - in other words, gain two E-grades at A-level.
Ah, I see. Cheers for the explanation. I went to Cambridge, via what's described above as Mode N.

What you're overlooking, of course, is that it's all relative. When they were saying "A-levels are easier" in 1995, they were still one hell of a lot harder than they are now. The really big drop, the drop that convinced the universities that A-levels had lost all value as a method of discriminating between the academic abilities of students, occurred seven years ago.
I'm not overlooking it. The two questions are :

a) Do we need to be able to compare A levels from different generations? I'm really not convinced. In '84, I read in the Guardian that it was very difficult indeed to get a grade C in some subjects (indeed, 3% could mean jumping from a D to a B). Mark schemes change, syllabuses change, methods of tuition change.

b) Can A Levels today discriminate between students of ability? Whether they've got easier, teaching has got better, teaching has got more focused on "teaching to the test", students are getting better at taking tests (the "Flynn Effect"), or some combination of them all (my preferred thinking ), there's now too large of a 'clump' of students getting grade A. Fine, soon we'll have an A* to tell apart the really good ones.

If you've got the TDA, you've got the means to find it yourself. Self-directed learning - it's the keystone of a successful university career, you know

If it helps, it was also used as the basis for the documentary series "That'll Teach 'Em" a few years ago in the UK; a group of students who were awaiting their GCSE results, all of whom were predicted A's or A*'s, voluntarily took mock exams based on past O-level papers (questions selected to match what they'd been taught at GCSE) and were marked according to the O-level criteria.

It was a massacre
Ah, so a TV show rather than an academic study?

The GCSE / O-level thing is a bit different though. The GCSE was always supposed to be a dumbed-down O-level, albeit one that had space at the top to stretch the most able (which it kind of managed in the mass subjects where schools could offer three levels of paper. Ish.).

FWIW, I'm not disputing that too many kids are getting As at A-Level these days, and so having an A is losing its cachet. What I'm disputing is that exams getting easier is the only or even the main reason for this occuring. Surely otherwise the number of students getting an A in Media Studies would be above the average, and not the rather low 11% it was in the last report I can find!
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 4:39 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by typical
a) Do we need to be able to compare A levels from different generations?
It's a very useful warning flag. When an education system finds itself in a position whereby students obtaining A-grade A-levels are of a demonstrably lower standard of academic ability than was considered the norm among A-grade students of the recent past, something's wrong somewhere.

Whether they've got easier, teaching has got better, teaching has got more focused on "teaching to the test", students are getting better at taking tests (the "Flynn Effect"), or some combination of them all
The Flynn Effect is believed to have slowed down and even stopped in many developed countries from about 1995 onwards, and in any case it's more associated with multiple-choice tests.

I can well believe that teaching has become more focused on getting pupils through their specific A-levels, which could certainly explain many of the problem universities face with their new intake not having the breadth of knowledge of previous undergrads, but it's impossible to discount the major role played by more lenient marking.

Ah, so a TV show rather than an academic study?
No - the series was *inspired* by the study.

Surely otherwise the number of students getting an A in Media Studies would be above the average, and not the rather low 11% it was in the last report I can find!
Any student who takes Media Studies is, by definition, a slacker. Hence, I'm surprised as many as 11% are getting A-grades.
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 4:47 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

Originally Posted by GarethR
It's a very useful warning flag. When an education system finds itself in a position whereby students obtaining A-grade A-levels are of a demonstrably lower standard of academic ability than was considered the norm among A-grade students of the recent past, something's wrong somewhere.


The Flynn Effect is believed to have slowed down and even stopped in many developed countries from about 1995 onwards, and in any case it's more associated with multiple-choice tests.

I can well believe that teaching has become more focused on getting pupils through their specific A-levels, which could certainly explain many of the problem universities face with their new intake not having the breadth of knowledge of previous undergrads, but it's impossible to discount the major role played by more lenient marking.


No - the series was *inspired* by the study.


Any student who takes Media Studies is, by definition, a slacker. Hence, I'm surprised as many as 11% are getting A-grades.
point is relevance... if you look at eastern schooling its not just all about academics but how to apply certain skills and to develop creative thinking, for some reason back here they like to use the "this is right, this is wrong" method... which means that you could have the best degree in the world and still not be able to do the job...

we interviewed maybe 7 people for a job recently and the person with the 3rd class degree was the person we wanted... the person who had a 1st plus came top of his year with a masters in the relevant subject was the worst person we interviewed...

it's more about the person... besides no b!tching or whining is ever going to change anything the government contrary to popular belief doesn't know it's R's from it's elbow
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Old Aug 17th 2007, 5:28 pm
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Default Re: A-Levels

One comment I'd like to throw into the equation is at what age children are being taught different skills, ie my daughter has been doing algebra in year 5 primary which I know for a fact I did not do or even think about until secondary school so maybe they are just learning more at a faster pace
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