examiners call for major overhaul of \predictable\ alevels
Last Updated : GMT 02:57:08
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Examiners call for major overhaul of \'predictable\' A-levels

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Examiners call for major overhaul of \'predictable\' A-levels

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Strict limits should be placed on the number of A-level resits permitted by each student to stop pupils “distorting the process” to inflate their overall grade, said Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance. He told how the number of A grades achieved by students last year soared by a quarter after retakes were added. In one extreme case, a mature student was allowed to sit A-level maths modules 29 times to secure a better grade, it was revealed. Mr Hall also called for the abolition of exams sat in the January of the first year of the A-level course – just four months after the start of the sixth-form – amid fears they disrupt pupils\' education. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said an overall cut in the amount of time spent on exams would create more teaching opportunities and allow exam boards to set a broader syllabus covering a wider range of issues, making it harder for schools to “teach to the test”. He said the exam board was now seeking more structured advice from university academics to ensure future A-level syllabuses “create a more natural link” between the sixth-form and higher education. “People have said to me that A-levels are becoming too predictable,” he said. “In some cases, it is a fair charge. One of the ways around that is to assess against a broader curriculum.” He said that covering more material in A-levels would ensure pupils were “better prepared when they arrive in employment or at university”, adding: “A-levels need to be reliable, but the pendulum has swung too far that way, so there’s a danger that they are too predictable.\" Most A-levels are made up of four modules. Two AS-level modules are sat in the January and June of the first year, while A2 papers are sat in the second year. Currently, students can resit these modules as many times as possible, with their best mark going towards the final grade. According to new figures, almost six-in-10 A-level students taking AQA exams last summer sat a paper more than once. Some 32.5 per cent of students re-sat one, 17.5 per cent took two and almost seven per cent sat three or more. In all, 24 per cent of A-levels was awarded at least an A grade last summer, it was revealed, but that proportion would have dropped to 19 per cent without the assistance of resits. Mr Hall suggested that the January AS-level exams should be scrapped, with all first year tests sat in June to create more teaching time. Students should also be limited to one retake per exam, he said, with pupils required to list their most recent mark – instead of their best result – to “remove the incentive to resit just to edge your grade up a notch”. “I am not against resits per se because you have to provide for a chance that someone has had a genuine disaster such as waking up feeling ill or just getting things totally wrong on the day,” he said. “But it is becoming so endemic and the impact it is having on final grade outcomes is so serious that we have to stand back and ask whether it is distorting the process.\" He added: “The majority of people are re-sitting one unit. But some are doing more. There is one candidate who has re-sat maths units 29 times. That’s the absolute extreme.” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “A lot of the really creative teaching in schools can often fall by the wayside because of the sheer pressure to prepare students for exams. We are certainly very keen to engage in the debate on how to improve the A-level system.” A DfE spokesman said: “We need to keep A-levels robust, rigorous and relevant to match the best education systems in the world and to keep pace with universities’ and businesses’ demands. “That’s why we are working with Ofqual and the exam boards to involve universities far more closely in the development of A-levels, including looking at the question of how the current modular structure impacts on students and their depth of subject knowledge and understanding.\"

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