Over the last two years, A-levels have been changing. The new A-level system sees some
subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and History using a new linear system of examination. Previously, A-levels were conducted on a modular basis, whereby students carried out AS examinations in their first year of sixth-form which equalled to 50% of their overall grade. In the second year, students took their A2 examinations which constitutes towards the final 50% of their A-level grade. Some subjects such as Maths and Politics followed the modular system this year but are currently being reformed. Under the new linear system, students take their final exams at the end of their two years at sixth form. Students fear that the new reforms are not accurately representing their efforts.
Sixth form student Kamsi claims that the new A-levels “[are not] a fair representation of a student’s academic commitment. Testing two years worth of content is unfair and it doesn’t give students the opportunity to showcase what they have actually learnt.”
The problem that many students have found is that under the new system they are in a
constant battle in the second year to remember the information that they learnt in the first. This often makes learning the second years’ content a lot harder as much of the information consumed is not properly digested as there is frankly too much content.
Under the old system, students were able to learn the first years’ content and take the
exams which counted towards their final grade. This meant that students did not have to
learn both years of content which made the volume of content much more manageable.
Fears have been cast over the effects that the reforms have on the mental health of
A-level student Ijaz Sultan explains “[a] trend among my peers in my college, in particular, was a growing doubt in [their] ability to do well.”
This belief has proven to be common among students undertaking the reformed A-levels. A larger volume of content to remember has seen exam pressure amongst students reach a new peak with many students finding it difficult to cope with the stress.
The A-level system and the UK’s education, in general, has often been criticised for not
teaching students to be creative or open minded but instead teaching students how to
A-level student Ivan, who has undertaken the new reforms, suggests “Linear A-levels just shows that the qualifications are designed to see how well you can remember lots of information [and] not actually educate you.”
Critics of the new system have highlighted the exam boards failures to sufficiently prepare students for the reformed examinations with claims that not enough specimen papers were produced to give students a chance to prepare for the new exams.
Later today, students across the country will be opening the envelopes containing the
grades that universities will be using to measure their abilities. Reports from various outlets have suggested that grade boundaries will be lowered to ensure that education standards do not fall and so that students’ efforts are fairly represented by the grades they receive.
This is bad news for the reforms which were implemented to improve standards nationally.
Hannah Bašić @hannahdellab