'Marking on the curve; is it the solution to A-levels?' blog discussion

This is the discussion to link on the back of Martin's blog. Please read the blog first, as this discussion follows it.
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  • littlemissmoneylittlemissmoney Forumite
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    I kind of agree, however it wouldn't work for all subjects. A Level Further Maths is a good example. People only tend to take further maths if they are really good at maths and want to study it at university. Therefore the majority of people who take it get an A, which seems fair to me.

    Edit:

    Here are the stats for last year:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/education/07/exam_results/a_level/html/mathematics_further.stm
    :p Proud to be a MoneySaver! :p
  • JimmyTheWigJimmyTheWig Forumite
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    If teaching standards are getting better (which, presumably they are if the exams are not getting easier but the grades are getting better) then with this method you would have someone getting a B today knowing less than someone getting a B in 5 years time.

    I can see your point. Your system shows a student's ability to learn, rather than what they know. Depends on who is looking at the results and why as to which information they would prefer. Maybe students should get both grades??
    if a paper or course happens to be easier one year, then marking on the curve smoothes out the problem
    This isn't an issue with the current system. That's what moderation is for. There is no strict trule that says, for example, you need to get 70% for an A.
    or we simply scrap the whole thing and rely on teacher assessment of pupil ability.
    Now there's an idea...
  • sdooleysdooley Forumite
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    It would encourage people to take the courses that they perceive less clever people apply for.
  • MSE_MartinMSE_Martin MoneySaving Expert
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    I kind of agree, however it wouldn't work for all subjects. A Level Further Maths is a good example. People only tend to take further maths if they are really good at maths and want to study it at university. Therefore the majority of people who take it get an A, which seems fair to me.

    Edit:

    Here are the stats for last year:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/education/07/exam_results/a_level/html/mathematics_further.stm

    Im not sure why this makes a difference?

    Under the 'curve', most of those people would get an A in maths, but then in further maths the grade they got would show how well they did compared to their 'super good' maths peers? :)
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  • JimmyTheWigJimmyTheWig Forumite
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    It doesn't allow for trends of subjects people take.
    For example, what if over the next few years more and more A-level maths students decided to take further maths as well. Lets assume currently that only the top 10% of maths students take further maths and that in 5 years time the top 20% of maths students take further maths.
    The student who was on the 16th percentile this year would get a B. The equivalent student in 5 years time would be on the 16th percentile of the top half of the students, making them on the 8th percentile overall, getting an A.

    On the other side of the coin, what if over time more youngsters went for vocational courses rather than academic ones. We could assume that the ones who would do this would be more likely to come from the lower end of the academic spectrum meaning that it would get harder for those left to get the good grades.

    For this reason alone it would be unfeasable for any course that didn't have a near universal take-up.
  • MSE_Martin wrote: »
    Im not sure why this makes a difference?

    Under the 'curve', most of those people would get an A in maths, but then in further maths the grade they got would show how well they did compared to their 'super good' maths peers? :)
    but if you need certain grades for uni entry, then you wouldn't want this an option....! it would have put me off, anyway!

    i think they could add something to A level results which shows your raw marks rather than just a grade. that way you can see those you scraped an A versus those who got 100%. not sure that would fix it entirely though.

    there are also people complaining about the same problem with degree results and too many students being given a 2:1..... no easy solution there either.
    :happyhear
  • littlemissmoneylittlemissmoney Forumite
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    MSE_Martin wrote: »
    Im not sure why this makes a difference?

    Under the 'curve', most of those people would get an A in maths, but then in further maths the grade they got would show how well they did compared to their 'super good' maths peers? :)

    That just wouldn't work. University offers are generally not subject specific so it would just put people off choosing subjects like further maths. Or you could get your friends to sit it too and ask them to write nothing to increase your grade:rotfl:

    The 'curve' sytem only works when a very large number of people are taking a virtually compulsary exam e.g. SATS or GCSE maths, english and science.
    :p Proud to be a MoneySaver! :p
  • This system would work for Universities I guess, but would make it confusing to employers.

    University entry exams are the way forward.
  • KarmacatKarmacat Forumite
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    Martin, I think this is the system we used to have in this country. I took my A levels in 1973, and just beforehand, I found out what the marking system was: that only 40% of people were allowed to pass. Nobody talked about it in those days, we didn't think about these things, but I think it changed about 1980. Even a couple of years ago, when I was thinking about working abroad teaching English, I got the comment that since my A levels were before 1980, that made a big difference. I was surprised, to say the least.
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  • jamtart6jamtart6 Forumite
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    introducing the A* is going to be awful (was on the news) for a-levels...employers will look at results from my year and think "oh they only got A's" whereas this bright young thing has an A*...

    the A-Levels in my opinion are the hardest exams ever, because the questions are worded very ambiguously, the answer they want is hardly ever what you've been taught (ie. access to the higher marks is some random thing you've never been taught) and they fluff the marks/grades to suit whatever they want.

    Whilst my Uni exams were much tougher in terms of content, the questions/marking etc. were much more straightforward, less of a guessing game as to what the examiner wanted, and based on pure knowledge.

    I pity A-level students, and hearing that "they're getting easier every year" only demoralises them

    I like the "curve" idea

    :ABeing Thrifty Gifty again this year:A

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