student life

A-levels – they’re getting easier and easier, aren’t they?

Results day leads to the constant question over the state of our education system. A-levels and GCSE’s are criticised for being too easy and why they need to be made harder.

Results day leads to the constant question over the state of our education system. A-levels and GCSE’s are criticised for being too easy and why they need to be made harder. In May the regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland, Ofqual, found that achieving success in both certificates was easier due to an increase of multiple choice and a decrease in actual essay questions. For GCSE’s the amount of pupils receiving A*-C rose from 42.5% in 1988 to 69.8% in 2011 while for A-levels the amount of students receiving the top A/A* grade rose from 8.6% in 1988 to 23.2% in 2011.

By currently going through the education system I have a strong point of view on this subject much like everyone else my age. I attempt to stay away from the typical comments on twitter such as ‘you take the papers and see if you can get an A!’ and think about my own experiences.

I will hold my hand up and say that when it came to GCSE’s I didn’t try. The extent of my revision stretched to spending an hour practicing for my French speaking test just to realise that it was something I was never going to pass and television was calling instead. Fortunate was the word that I would describe my results day; the grades got me within the top 10% of GCSE students at my secondary school and a picture in the local newspaper. Universities such as Durham and Imperial got thrown around (I think my D in French put them off mentioning Oxford and Cambridge); I was interested in medicine and believed I was on my way to greatness.

Then A-levels happened. Now looking back, I remember being sat in our tiny drama room, that was used for sixth form assemblies, listening to the staff going on about how you have to revise and A-Level’s require actual work. With an ego that had been massaged to a size that I was surprised my head could fit through a door, I believed I stood exempt. Plus, I was 16 and had no idea how to revise since it had never factored into my education. I picked biology, chemistry, maths and history while only one teacher informed me of the hard work I was to endure, the rest were happy to take me.

I was under the pretence that I was doing perfectly well minus a few slip-ups in maths, I could make my way through college, although medicine might just be out of my reach, I could still get somewhere. Then March happened. I must have spent an hour locked in the toilets, my results were littered with U’s and D’s, the sciences and maths obviously weren’t my forte as I was lead to believe. Resit forms were signed and paid for, I could deal with this and my teachers reassured me that it wasn’t the end of the world.  They couldn’t have been more wrong, history was my only savour when August came around and the paper was filled with U’s and E’s this time with one little C being my shinning light. I managed to score 9/100 on Maths unit 2 test (although I will be happy to admit I wasn’t bottom of the class with that score). Nothing can explain the feeling of every hope and dream I had dropping away from me, I rapidly needed to re-evaluate my life and the only way I would be welcomed back to the college was by starting fresh.

For the next 2 years, I worked the hardest I had in my life, and even now, as I write this article, I’m sitting locked in my room in blind panic waiting for my results to come through. I’ve hopefully turned my life around, changing from medicine to my guilty pleasure of writing. Overall, nothing can describe the jump in knowledge and writing style that is expected within a 6 month time period. GCSE’s involved ticking boxes and answers that were nothing more than a few sentences (other than the English exams) while the A-Levels involved pages of texts books being memorised, every answer had to be answered a certain way. My history teacher said that a student can understand the subject, all the facts and figures and still come away with an E because it’s the writing style. Exams have turned away from being about knowledge and into being able to play a game against the exam boards.

However, in the same moment I think, world records are constantly broken, so why are we surprised that exam results get better?