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Are A-levels getting easier?

**helen****helen** Mod malarkistPosts: 9,235 Listening Ear
Hattie fiercely believes the answer to that question is no. Read her rant and share your view on the matter. :)

Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's shit when you're doing A levels and all anyone can say is how much easier they're getting, but imo, it's true. They're easier now than when I did them, and they were easier when I did them than when my parents did them.

    If they were consistent, the pass rate and percentage of people getting top marks would hover around the same point. Some years it would be higher, some years lower. The fact that it increases year on year, for me, points to one obvious conclusion. And it isn't that people are getting smarter.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's also hard to deny that they're getting easier when they rewrote the maths one a few years ago.

    P1, P2 and P3 got rejigged to become C1-4 and yet you still only have to do 6 modules. Aka people one the new system do 5/6s of what the ones on the old system did..........
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    The line that gives her away is as follows:
    I've just completed my first year of A-Levels, so I feel my opinion on this subject is valid. What many critics either forget or don't seem to realise is that the transition from GCSEs to A-Levels is enormous. It's not a mere step up the ladder.

    1. You're taking exams at one point in time. You have no basis for comparison, ergo, your opinion is, in fact, not valid.
    2. No-one is arguing that the transition is small, merely that both are getting easier and easier.

    There is absolutely no question that they are getting easier.

    Teachers who have followed curricula for years have been saying this and who is better qualified to opine on the matter? Employers are bemoaning the fact that school leavers and even university graduates lack basic numeracy and literacy skills that would have been taken for granted from folk 20 years their senior.

    I've seen Spanish and Russian O level papers from 20 years ago that are A-level / First year degree material nowadays. How else could that be explained?

    That said, it's not the fault of those taking the exams; they still have to work hard and put the effort in, but unfortunately have been betrayed by a generation of politicians attempting to artificially boost exam results.

    Couple that with the emasculation of the teaching profession in the harsh face of parental litigation, accusations of being a paedo or an abusive bully where 30-odd years of impeccable service are disregarded the second you try to restrain some little scrote who is wreaking hell and destroying not only his chance of escaping the gutter but those of the kids around him and you have to ask yourself, who'd be a teacher?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Olive wrote: »
    It's shit when you're doing A levels and all anyone can say is how much easier they're getting, but imo, it's true. They're easier now than when I did them, and they were easier when I did them than when my parents did them.

    If they were consistent, the pass rate and percentage of people getting top marks would hover around the same point. Some years it would be higher, some years lower. The fact that it increases year on year, for me, points to one obvious conclusion. And it isn't that people are getting smarter.
    :yes:. I agree.

    Then again I think everyone should do the IB at college, which is certainly NOT easy.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    eeeven though i'm not doing A levels as i am in scotland, I like to think our english exam was hard as only 4 people got A's (out of 60) and me and someone else were the only two that got band one. and most others got C's.

    I must admit though i think if you were doing one subject then yeah the exams would be easier, but when combining that with another 5 that include the three sciences it is hard. And i do get annoyed when credit is taken away as people say they are easier when they haven't sat them. But i do get where people are coming from, when i look back my standard grades were a walk in the park but at the time they were the hardest thing ever.

    So after that condridicting rant, i feel better :D
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    eeeven though i'm not doing A levels as i am in scotland, I like to think our english exam was hard as only 4 people got A's (out of 60) and me and someone else were the only two that got band one. and most others got C's.

    I must admit though i think if you were doing one subject then yeah the exams would be easier, but when combining that with another 5 that include the three sciences it is hard. And i do get annoyed when credit is taken away as people say they are easier when they haven't sat them. But i do get where people are coming from, when i look back my standard grades were a walk in the park but at the time they were the hardest thing ever.

    So after that condridicting rant, i feel better :D
    You're not combining it with another 5 though. You're combining it with another 2-3.

    That's why I like IB. It gives you an all round education in every area (you HAVE to do English, Maths, a science and a language, whether it's basic stuff or hardcore) but still allows you to focus on the things you're good at.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    oh...i didnt think scottish and english were that different! its max 5 here and most do 4 or 5.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm not 100% sure because I didn't do A-Levels but from what I gather, you can do 4-5 AS levels, then 3-4 A2s. So people going into say, medicine, would do Maths and the three sciences. Or something. I don't know for sure though but I will always say IB is best :D.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Franki wrote: »
    You're not combining it with another 5 though. You're combining it with another 2-3.

    That's why I like IB. It gives you an all round education in every area (you HAVE to do English, Maths, a science and a language, whether it's basic stuff or hardcore) but still allows you to focus on the things you're good at.

    Hmm thats the thing with IB... you can like Franki said, focus on specific areas yet still keep skills up to date in other areas. For example, I do Chemistry, Biology and History at higher level, and French, English and Maths at standard level. And thats not it... I also study TOK (Theory of Knowledge) written an extended essay (4000 words) and done the CAS programme (150 hours in creativity/action/service). I like that by the end of 6th form I will have still been writing essays and studying another language... whereas if i'd done A-levels, i would have probs done the classic chemistry, biology, maths option.

    :yes: With only a small percentage of people scoring the top marks - 45 points (i think its something like less than 1% worldwide get that score) then well yeah... its harder.

    I think whether A-Levels are getting easier or not is hard to judge... But from the amount of As around... surely thats an indicator that regardless of why (down to better teaching/them getting easier etc etc)... they need to be harder. And I don't think that introducing the A* grade was the answer....

    My opinion is well... the IB is better than A-Levels... More rounded education etc etc. And I also strongly believe that everyone should be required to learn a foreign language... In most other countries people are at least bilingual, and I think its an important skill to have. Ha, enough ranting :p
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Given that these sorts of exams are assessed normatively, and that it is impossible to set an exam of exactly the same standards year after year, I would say that it is the whole system that is at fault and that can be so easily manipulated, as opposed to A levels getting easier or harder. One year for an exam an A grade could be 60 marks out of 100 for the top 20% of people taking the exam, the next year it could be 90 marks out of 100. It depends on how everyone else taking the exam does.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Although I don't quite understand how they can be being marked normatively and results go up year on year?

    If anyone does I'd appreciate the explanation.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Although I don't quite understand how they can be being marked normatively and results go up year on year?

    If anyone does I'd appreciate the explanation.

    I don't believe they are, are they? At least, I'm pretty sure they weren't when I was doing them, as I think I remember being told grade boundaries in advance of sitting the exams.

    ETA: googling tells me that boundaries are largely fixed, with an amount of scaling depending on the difficulty of the paper - as has been mentioned, it's impossible to have papers of exactly the same difficulty.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Olive wrote: »
    I don't believe they are, are they? At least, I'm pretty sure they weren't when I was doing them, as I think I remember being told grade boundaries in advance of sitting the exams.

    ETA: googling tells me that boundaries are largely fixed, with an amount of scaling depending on the difficulty of the paper - as has been mentioned, it's impossible to have papers of exactly the same difficulty.
    Another reason the IB is better ;). Results are on a curve, so while it means that a person who got 45 one year would not necessarily get it the next, it does show that they were in the top howevermany percent of thousands and thousands of people AROUND THE WORLD that year. Says something to me....
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Franki wrote: »
    Another reason the IB is better ;). Results are on a curve, so while it means that a person who got 45 one year would not necessarily get it the next, it does show that they were in the top howevermany percent of thousands and thousands of people AROUND THE WORLD that year. Says something to me....

    Tbh, I think that fixing the boundaries makes more sense.

    If I were an employer, or a university, and I saw someone had 4 As, I'd have a certain expectation about their ability. But what if they only got those grades because they took them in a year when the standard was particularly low? Equally, you could have someone who was very able, and in any other year would have got top marks, but because the standard the year they took them was very high, they might come away with Bs or even Cs. Extreme examples, I guess, but you know what I mean.

    If you grade based on top percentages, you don't get marked as an individual, but on your ability as it relates to everyone you took the exam with.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Your actual mark in the test is translated into a Uniform Mark Scale. What your UMS mark is depends on how difficult the test is, but the UMS stays the same every year. So one year, for example, your mark might be 60 out of 100, but because the test is determined as "difficult" by chief examiners (based on the fact that the average results were lower), the 60 mark would be converted to 80% on the UMS, thus you would get an A grade. However, the next year, the test might be deemed "easier" by the chief examiners (because the average mark for everyone taking the exam was higher), therefore you might have to get 85 marks on the exam converted to a UMS mark of 80% in order to get an A.

    So the UMS percentage for an A always stays the same (I believe for AQA it is 96/120 in terms of the UMS), but that doesn't mean that your raw mark has to be 96/120. The reasoning behind doing it this way is that if one year people are scoring really highly on an exam, but the next year there is a significantly lower average mark, it could be that the level of the tests was not equal both years (e.g. the first was easier than the second). To account for this, they effectively fiddle with the grading system so that a raw mark that may translate into an A one year, may not translate into an A the next year, or vice versa - but the UMS percentage mark required for an A will still stay the same.

    Sorry if that is too much information, I just personally find it quite a bizarre system!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    FireFly85 wrote: »
    they effectively fiddle with the grading system so that a raw mark that may translate into an A one year, may not translate into an A the next year, or vice versa - but the UMS percentage mark required for an A will still stay the same.

    In theory, they alter the raw marks based on achievement from previous years, the current years, and independent review of the difficult of the papers, so that, in theory, a person of the same ability should receive the same mark in any year they take the test.

    In reality, I suspect it gives a perfect veil for fudging up the grades to meet targets and artificially reduce the government's unemployment figures by sending more and more people through further and higher education.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Yeah in scotland the grade boundaries depend on how hard the test is and what the average percentages are. Higher maths this year was soo hard that an A was 65%!! which i think is silly but then again i didnt take the test so i dont know how hard it was. But most people got C's which is like 20 something %

    But then in biology an A was 80%
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Olive wrote: »
    In reality, I suspect it gives a perfect veil for fudging up the grades to meet targets and artificially reduce the government's unemployment figures by sending more and more people through further and higher education.

    Exactly. I can understand that something needs to be done about the problem of continuity of difficulty in examinations, however as you were saying before I don't think it accurately reflects a person's true academic ability if their mark depends largely on how everyone else doing the exam scores.

    Also, here in Kent we still have the selective grammar school system and the 11+ which I believe is marked in the same way. So of course it is to the advantage of schools and parents of bright kids to enter as many children into the 11+ as possible, thus reducing the average grade, and lowering the "true" mark score necessary to pass and get into a grammar school.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi

    Hey I Agree.

    Again, I think everyone should do at the IB school, which really is not easy. :rolleyes: :yippe:
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Not having had any experience of A levels in the past I don't really know whether they are any easier now.

    But compared to GCSEs they are a barrel of laughs...I thought they would be really hard work. Sure the work load is higher and personal study is now necessary, but I found GCSEs much harder and way more stressful.

    I am in year 12 and have been doing mock exams, using last years papers and I am already hitting Bs and Cs (considering my target grades are 2As and 2Bs...) and it is only 12ish weeks into the course.

    I kind of wish I was doing the IB. Basically I am a geek and need some form of challenge in my life, which is not happening at the moment.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    IMa doing my GCSE's, and i'm glad they're getting easier, makes it nicer for me

    I always find it nice when I still achieve something, even though it was harder.
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