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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Advanced exam too tough by half
exam candidate
Tougher questions are to become more mainstream
Half the attempts at advanced level exams intended to stretch the brightest candidates ended in failure this year.

The failure rate in A-levels in general dropped to 3.8%, prompting further debate about standards.

But in the tougher Advanced Extension Awards it rose to 50.6%, ranging from 25.6% in classics to 74% in psychology.

The government intends to incorporate similar questions into mainstream A-levels as one way of discriminating between the best candidates.

Results fell

The awards are optional and available in a relatively limited number of subjects.

There were only 9,305 entries in total - compared with 783,878 for A-levels - though this was more than 28% higher than in 2004.

They are graded simply "distinction" or "merit".

The proportion of entries gaining a distinction fell by 1.1 percentage points from last year and at merit level by 0.2.

The proportion failing to attain a grade rose 0.2 to 50.6%.

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