A-levels

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A-levels (short for Advanced GCE) are a form of academic qualification taken in the United Kingdom, primarily by those at 18. In the Curriculum 2000 reforms, A-levels were changed from being exams taken at the end of two years and replaced with two one-year courses: the Advanced Supplement (AS) course and the A2 course, which taken together are equivalent to an A-level.

A-levels are graded using letters: A, B, C, D, E and U (for unclassified), and since 2010, an A* grades.

A-levels are set by three competing examination boards: AQA, OCR and Edexcel. All started as non-profits, and have been closely affiliated with universities. Edexcel has become a private for-profit company and is owned by the educational publisher Pearson. Due to concerns about quality and consistency between examination boards, the government set up a regulatory body in 2010 called the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, or Ofqual for short.[1]

Criticism

Following the A-level results each year, considerable debate often happens in the popular press as to whether or not A-level (and GCSE) exams are getting easier.[2][3] The science writer Ben Goldacre expressed skepticism, suggesting that there is little evidence to think that exams are getting easier.[4]

The government have been attempting to make it so that there is parity between academic A-levels and vocational qualifications. This has been done by introducing very close equivalent qualifications: GNVQs, VCEs and AVCEs, and more recently a qualification known simply as "Diplomas".

References

  1. Ofqual
  2. Graeme Paton, Are A-levels getting easier?, The Telegraph, 18 August 2009.
  3. Laura Clark, Boards 'dumb down exams to beat rivals': Winning business is put ahead of testing pupils, Daily Mail, 17 September 2010.
  4. Ben Goldacre, Are exams getting easier? Nobody knows, The Guardian, 21 August 2010.