16 October 2013

Latest Overhaul of A-Level Exams in the UK

According to a report published in January 23, the most recent overhaul of A-level exams seems to be the return to a former system implemented that consisted of the Higher School Certificate and the School Certificate. A levels are a qualification which are used to gain entrance to a university. 18 year olds in the UK who wish to carry on to university usually take three, four or five different subjects at A-levels (each consisting of two or three exams and possibly coursework in addition). Universities admit students based on their A-level grades, making offers during the previous school year. The past system of education required students to take 5 different exams in different subjects such as English, math, foreign language, and other subject of their choice. After having received the School Certificate, they could take another exam in three different subjects so that they could enroll to a university. This system was very effective, and many people are constantly wondering why the government felt the need to intervene and revise it.

Numbers and Statistics

The Department for Education’s final list of academic A-level students who managed to score AAB cannot be trusted, since it doesn’t show the exact percentage of students who are ready for the Russell Group. For example, the score obtained by St Alban was 38%, even though 83% of their students chose to enroll to one of the universities belonging to Russell Group, while another 11% opted for 1994 Group universities.

Photo: Stockvault
This discrepancy is caused by the Department’s insistence to include three academic A scores, which wasn’t very inspired, since there aren’t too many universities that require three A-levels from an applicant. Besides, the list also excludes government and politics, religious studies, ancient history, and economics. What is even more surprising is the fact that ancient history has become one of the GCSE EBacc subjects as a consequence of too much ministerial enthusiasm. 
Several teachers disagree with the changes made to A-levels, while others claim that they should have been made a long time ago. The opposition would slowly disappear if the Admission Service system for Colleges and Universities was reformed in order to allow students to apply only after they receive their A-level results. This change would make the whole process go quicker, and students would get the chance to apply for the university or course that suits them best. In conclusion, the current system is often described as being stressful for most students, as well as highly inefficient.

Future prospects

However, Education Secretary Michael Gove has recently stated that major changes are going to be made to A-levels in England, the only problem being the fact that these plans haven’t been too well received by university leaders and head teachers. Starting from 2015, pupils will have to sit exams at the end of every two-year course that they attend. AS-levels will not disappear, but they will be seen as separate exams, while several leading universities will make sure that standards are maintained.

These proposals have been highly criticized, several teachers calling them incoherent, rushed, and even an unusual way of fixing something that works perfectly well. The University of Cambridge has repeatedly disapproved with the changes brought to AS-levels, mentioning that they put at risk more than a decade of progress towards reasonable access to the university.

University Role

According to Mr. Gove, current A-levels don’t help students understand their subjects better. As previously mentioned, exams will have to be taken after two years of following a course, and universities will get more involved. Besides, the AS-level will turn into a separate exam which can be taken after one or two years. Even though many of these details have been made public from last year, the government has been more specific about the date when these changes will be introduced: autumn 2015.

In other words, there will be no other public exams taken in the lower sixth year apart from AS-levels. While most universities are looking to involve themselves in the policy of these new exams, no reaction has been seen until now. One of the main problems will appear in case Northern Ireland and Wales refuse to follow this policy; their refusal will only lead to a major rupture in Great Britain’s exam system. 
There are plenty of universities who accept students based on the results of their AS-levels, but the new changes will imply putting more emphasis on school references, which will bring great disadvantages to some pupils. Taking into account the fact that famous universities such as Cambridge and Oxford have criticized some of the changes involved, chances are the English population will split into two categories: those who support these changes and those who don’t.
Author Bio: The article is being authored by a regular freelance writer Jason Phillips. He is a workaholic person and enjoys writing on different subjects. Also he writes for the site http://www.yorknotes.com/revision-notes/alevel. You can get here A-level revision notes and study guides on English Literature.


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