LETTER : Today's A-levels fail to make the grade

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The Independent Online
From Mr Damian Beasley-


Sir: An examination has, in general, been thought of as an anonymous test against a specific standard. Those who reach the standard pass, those who don't fail. I fail to understand why, every year, the loudest reaction to improving public exam results is that the improvement must be due to falling standards, and that the idea that students and teachers may have improved against the standard is simply excluded from consideration.

If there is a scandal in the recent rise in pass rates, surely it is with the long-held suspicion that, up until a decade or so ago, examination grades were simply allotted in proportion to the number of examinees - the top five per cent being awarded grade A, the next 15 per cent grade B, and so on. At the time when I sat O- and A- levels (1982-84), this seemed to be accepted as a fact. I suggest that this would turn an examination from a test of knowledge against a set standard into a simple lottery, therefore devaluing it greatly.


Damian Beasley-Suffolk

Wokingham, Berkshire