Sir: As the pass rate for A-level examinations has been increasing steadily in recent years, it is understandable that an inquiry into standards should be called. It is the general consensus that A-levels are no longer demanding enough. However, I believe that the examination boards should remain "innocent until proven guilty".
I sat four A-levels this summer and achieved results which were significantly higher than I had expected. In order to secure myself a place at a respected university I, along with tens of thousands of other teenagers, sacrificed the majority of my social life and income from part-time work, as well as relaxation and leisure activities. During the three weeks of the examinations, my behaviour displayed the biological symptoms of depression: disturbed sleep, diurnal variation, mood swings, lack of appetite and weight loss. I became a recluse in the town library or my bedroom. In a misguided attempt to improve the situation, my father bought me a magazine to read, without realising the lead article was entitled "Is exam stress leading your teenager to suicide?"
Although I have gained a place at my first choice of university, I believe that the UCAS system is unfair and outmoded. It forces students into making legally binding career choices based upon hypothetical examination results halfway through the two-year course. Students who, through sheer hard work and sacrifice, achieve higher than expected grades are penalised, as the system forces them to attend a course which required low entry grades. University entrance should be based upon actual, not hypothetical, results, even if this means that the academic year would have to start later than at present. An element of stress would be removed, allowing all A-level students reach the highest level course achievable with their actual grades.
Ailyn E. K. Routledge,