Monday, August 15, 2005

Bronze standard

A-levels used to be the gold standard of academic performance in the UK, have they been devalued?

In 2004 22.4% scored grade A at A-level, in 1982 only 8.9% of students achieved it. In 2004 96% scored grades A-E at A-level, in 1982 only 68.2% of students achieved it.

Would it be better for students and employers if only the top 10% of candidates ever achieved an 'A' grade?


Calum said...

I don't think that's a good idea. Your grades will only relate to how well everyone else did that year and not how well you did yourself. For example in 2006 a person could do brilliantly in an exam, but everyone else that year did better. They end up with a bad grade (D). In 2007 a second person doesn't do well the same exam, but everyone else that year does worse. They end up with an (A) grade. The (D) grade person did better, but the (A) grade person will get the job. This is grossly unfair. I understand what you are saying but there is more to it than that. If a person is doing badly in a subject they can choose to drop it and only take the subjects they are good at. This didn't used to be the case, so people were failing in exams where they otherwise would have dropped the subject. People also choose to do other levels, such as AS, and I myself took a BTEC National Diploma, which is supposed to be the same as two A Levels, but there are no exams, just coursework. I am very much in favour of no exams.

Bishop Hill said...

Couldn't you accompany the mark with a percentile? And maybe the average mark?

Wat Tyler said...

Definitely have fixed proportions getting each grade. Grading people is the whole point of the exercise and that only makes sense in relative terms. Employers need to know where prospective employees stack up vs other prospective employees.

Obviously there's a risk that absolute standards may fluctuate from year to year, but the cohorts are big enough to minimise that problem. I certainly don't think you'd get an D grade one year being equivalent to an A the next.

Snafu said...

Desperate Artist, If you are in the top 10% of your year, you should expect to get an 'A'. The system would discriminate and allow for the effect of 'easy' or 'difficult' exam papers and subjects.

If "a person [does] brilliantly in an exam, but everyone else that year did better", then I fail to see why that person deserves an 'A'!!

I also think everyone should do exams at the end of the second year of study, it's too easy to cheat otherwise!!

BigRedOne said...

There was an interesting article on the Guardian website yesterday, 15th Aug 05, where some industry leaders voiced their concerns re. what is being studied rather than the grades being earnt. Basically, they are worried that too many people are studying things like sociology and there aren't enough people doing languages, sciences and maths, which are percieved to be harder and therefore more difficult to do well in. It might also be noted that the complete waste of time that is General Studies is also pushing pass rates up at a phenomenal rate.
I think we can trust prospective employers to ask (and check) WHAT people applying for jobs did at A-Level, rather than just the grades they obtained.

Snafu said...

FBB, All I can assume is that the market rewards people with 'better' A-level subjects with higher pay. However, I suspect most scientists would disagree with that!!