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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Are A-level standards slipping?
Student celebrating A-level result in 2001

A record number of students have passed their A-levels this year with nearly a quarter of students getting an A-grade.

The overall pass rate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 96%, and it's the 22nd year in a row it's gone up.

You put your questions to David Thomas, Chief Exec of the Careers Research Advisory Centre in an interactive forum

But some critics say the qualification has become devalued in part, because of the success of pupils.

Headteachers are also concerned that the increasing proportion of A grades could make it more difficult for teenagers who get D and E grades to find work.

Are A-levels getting easier? Or are standards just going up? Are A-levels the best way to test students? How useful are they at getting jobs?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:

Kids are now just being taught how to pass a particular subject
Lee, Hebburn, England
Once again, it's either black or white for most respondents. No-one is saying that your son/daughter didn't deserve their 'A' grade A-levels. What is being argued is that where in the past students would have been failed, they are now getting a pass. The real problem, as some have pointed out, is that kids are now just being taught how to pass a particular subject, whereas in the past, they had a more well-rounded learning experience.
Lee, Hebburn, England

I did my A-levels 30 years ago, but how some members of the current generation can claim to be so highly educated and intelligent is beyond me when they make such ludicrous generalisations such as "the quality of students has deteriorated". Also, some posters here make factual errors; it is by no means common for students to take five subjects to A2 level. I think the grade inflation is down to some subjects that are easier that didn't exist years ago, such as Media. Many of my friends and colleagues say that the History A-levels nowadays are harder than the ones they sat!
Stephen, UK

Having done my A-levels 3 years ago and having worked the hardest ever in my life on them, anyone who says they are easy should try doing them themselves. It's quite insulting to those who have worked so hard to achieve so much to be told that it's all much easier these days. Surely we should be congratulating students and teachers not condemning the system.
Lorna Ellen, Currently Paris, France

I would not have said that A-levels are getting easier, it is just that teachers know what will be in the exams and that is what they teach the students. The exams, being modular, examine more of the syllabus than they used to be. But it doesn't help the students learn about the subject only about what they will need to know to pass the exam.
Steve, Bromsgrove

I wonder how many 17/18/19 year olds criticising their elders for saying the A-level standard has fallen will be themselves decrying everyone getting A grades in 10 years' time?
Sally, Manchester, UK

An exam pass rate of over 95%, suggests to me there's something wrong with the system.
Paul Redstall, Basingstoke, Hants

It is painfully obvious that subjects such as physics have been dumbed-down to the point of being almost useless. All of the more advanced (and difficult) mathematics has been removed - and physics simply cannot be properly understood without it. It is really that simple. Ask any university physics lecturer whether they think the students are better equipped now than 30 years ago to cope with the intellectual rigours of a physics degree. The answer is no - and therein lies the answer to the original question - standards are indisputably falling.
Dr Simon Phoenix, Ipswich, UK

Today's education seems to be more geared to providing useful skills in the workplace
Gary, UK
I am 35 years old and spent four years of my schooling learning Latin, which I have never used since in my entire working career. Today's education seems to be more geared to providing useful skills in the workplace and in life than the classical eduction of the past. How can we compare the two?
Gary, UK

Every year the media says standards are slipping, every year university lecturers (like me) tell you it's because teachers are coaching towards exams, meaning that A-level students are unprepared for higher education's focus on the independent learner. So why every year does the media report that standards are slipping?.
Mark Walker, Holywell, UK

Actually, both sides are right. I can believe that today's A-level students work just as hard. The point is that they are starting from a much lower base. GCSEs are not as rigourous as O-levels.
Hilton Holloway, London, UK

When I did physics A level a few years ago, it was very simple, and the text books were a joke. If we ever wanted to do some interesting, in-depth work, all we had to do was look at the 1980s O level books!
Ben Barker, Cambridge, UK

I am currently studying Law at University as a (very) mature student. The younger students on my course seem to be no more or less intelligent than the people I was at college with nearly thirty years ago when I did my A-levels. How do all these people who think A-levels are easier now know? Unless you have followed both courses of study and taken the exams, how can you reach that conclusion? All I know is that I got 3 A-levels and 10 O-Levels because I did well in about 20 exams unlike today's kids who are constantly assessed over a four-year period, 2 years for GCSE and 2 years for A-levels. Let's just give them a bit of credit when they do well. After all you can only do what you are asked to do and who can say that if they sat 'harder' exams they wouldn't get the same results.
Graham, Fareham, Hampshire

The problem is that teachers are forced to teach to the test
Caroline, Guildford, UK
As someone with many years' experience teaching first year university students, I think the real problem is not that exams are easier. The problem is that teachers are forced to teach to the test. Students are taught how to jump through the A-levels hoop, which is just not an adequate way to assess their abilities. I've seen quite a marked decline in standards of first year students entering university in the past 5 years alone, because the Teach To The Test system just does not equip them for tertiary education. This is not a poor reflection on either students or their teachers. It's a poor reflection on the system that forces schools to do whatever they can to produce rosy-looking pass figures and maintain that place on the league tables. There's much more to being well-educated than getting a good mark. It's time the government realised that and stopped pushing schools to focus on training kids to jump through hoops.
Caroline, Guildford, UK

Personally I don't think they are getting easier. Fifty years ago Roger Bannister was the first man to break the mile in under 4 minutes - nowadays it's commonplace. The fact is the mile is not getting any easier it's the preparation of participants that's improving; just like the A-level grades.
Sean Guthrie, London, England

I did A-levels over 30 years ago and over the past three years have helped both my children with their AS and A levels, one in sciences and maths and the other in arts so have something to compare. The syllabus has certainly been made more user-friendly in the sciences and the modular nature of the exams gives each student two shots at a good grade. I have also talked with university academics when visiting colleges with my children, and it would appear that they have had to 'adapt' to the curriculum 2000 intakes. My conclusion is that schools are now just coaching children to pass exams and if they become educated on the way its pure luck. I might not agree with the sink or swim nature of the exams I did, but what was the educational gold standard has been completely devalued.
David W, Surrey, UK

When will people realise that improvements in A-level results mean that students are working harder rather than the exams being made easier? With so many people now applying for university, students are only too aware of the importance of getting the best grades possible and are therefore working harder to achieve them. Why do we always have to put people down? Surely we should be applauding students for doing the work, getting the grades and getting into the university they want.
Allie, London

When I studied A'levels, the maximum you did was three, with the exceptionally bright students studying four subjects. Now, students study for five generally. The only way to do this, and get high grades, is to water-down the courses. It's no surprise that students get good grades. We need to listen to the academic staff who themselves state that content previously taught at GCSE level is now being taught at A'level, and content from A'levels is being taught at degree level.
Tim, Leicester

It is not fair to all those students getting their results to be told that they are getting easier
Anon, Cumbria
My daughter has today received her A level results. Why do the 'experts'who hold the view that todays's exams are easier than they were 20 years ago have to air these views today? It is not fair to all those students getting their results to be told that they are getting easier. Certainly my daughter worked incredibly hard and these comments devalue her achievements.
Anon, Cumbria

Recently, 12 years after taking my original A levels, I have retaken my Maths and Chemistry A levels to bring myself back up to speed ready for a further professional qualification. They were definitely easier this time and compared to the notes from the first time, a less detailed curriculum!
Marc Whiteley, London, England

I think it is a combination of rising standards and easier exams. Teaching standards have improved, and this is combined with a trend for schools to not let weak students even sit the exams. However, the modular exam system has made life easier, as you only have to learn what in is each module, and not the entire course. There is also the possibility for numerous retakes if the required grade is not achieved.
Rebecca, Lancaster, England

The schools standards minister is deluded if he thinks exams aren't getting easier. We are so preoccupied with making sure everyone leaves with a qualification that we are encouraging mediocrity, not meritocracy. The emphasis on coursework encourages a "cut and paste" approach with minimal writing involved. Ask 18/19 year olds how to use an apostrophe and if 10% of them know I'd be amazed.
Al, Bristol, England

Take an A-Level Maths or Physics paper from 1984, 1994, and 2004 and compare the level of real academic understanding required to do the questions. Having done this if you still agree with the school standards minister it follows that you probably don't have the analytical skills required to pass even the 2004 paper! I do feel sorry for the pupils though; how can they learn the more challenging concepts if consecutive governments continue to water down course syllabuses, in the hope of reaching meaningless, arbitrary targets? Most teachers aren't going to teach topics above and beyond the syllabus - that's not going to stand the school in good stead for the equally ridiculous league tables the government enforces. These days education seems to be more about shoving children into one end of the machine and waiting for them to pop out the other with government pleasing grades. Rather akin to the pig and the sausage maker.
Phil Beadling, London, UK.

What's the point in year on year making the top students less distinguishable?
Geoff Dutton, London

I've been interviewing potential employees for the last 15 years. There is no doubt that standards have declined. What's the point in year on year making the top students less distinguishable? Clearly this is illustrated by all those supposed A grade students telling us that these exams are just as hard as they were a decade or more ago. What on earth are they comparing them to?
Geoff Dutton, London

There are a lot of people out in the 'real' world with A levels and degrees coming out of their ears but can they add up? Can they spell? Do they have bags of common sense? NO because they are taught HOW to get through the exams to improve the school's results. You can also now take A levels in some 'easier' subjects such as religious studies etc. Dead easy!
Mark Collins, Northampton, UK

I was the second year to take GCSE's. We used previous maths papers for practice - the first year of GCSE's, and previous O-level papers, and it was blindingly obvious that the O-levels were much harder, which was also the opinion of all the teachers. If standards are being raised, why are Universities having to introduce remedial maths courses for subjects such as Engineering?
Chris, London, UK

Anyone who has the cheek to claim that a-levels are getting easier should perhaps try sitting them! Then they can experience the stress that comes with competing with classmates who incidentally happen to be your best friends, having 3 pieces of coursework all due in on the same day and incompetent teachers who cannot mark to the correct standards. That's not to mention the pressure that if you don't achieve the results you need to go to the university you have set your heart on then you have to re-plan the next three years of your life!
Gemma Stapleton, Dunstable

Can someone please point out the relevance of A-levels these days?
Scott, Rochester, UK

Can someone please point out the relevance of A-levels these days? (or any exam for that matter) They are pieces of paper that get you into university. Even after that the recent graduates cannot secure jobs they were aiming for. Isn't it about time exams were like the exams of old, where people had to remember what they had been taught, think for themselves and not follow what's in front of them.
Scott, Rochester, UK

I'm tired of hearing the whinging people usually more dismayed by their realization of more competition against their aging! This generation of students is encouraged to be academic and encouraged (and pressured) into performing well. Good on them. When they're hired by big industries they usually show up with an enthusiasm and thirst instead of excuses and questions. I just hope the whining lazy 70s/80s generation stop making excuses and pull their fingers out!

Maybe there's something in the water, but I doubt it. I suspect this is New Labour giving the next batch of voters a feel good factor.
Gerry Noble, Salisbury, UK

Having done A levels and been a student, I feel that most students have to acknowledge the fact that exams and degrees mean less then they did. I'm sorry, but I feel its time to wake up and live in the real world, where you're not supported by parents or state, where everything doesn't end up rosy and actually realise that its a nasty place out there and you best get on with it. Whinging gets you absolutely nowhere.
Luke, London, UK

No one can say that a-levels are too easy until they've sat them and passed them without putting much effort in
Daniel Watson (aged 16), Huddersfield

No one can say that a-levels are too easy until they've sat them and passed them without putting much effort in. The fact of the matter is that the failures have dropped out after high school and only the hard workers go to college... hence good pass rate. Notice there is no commotion over GCSE's?
Daniel Watson (aged 16), Huddersfield

It seems to me that schools are forced to simply teach to the exam these days, neglecting to actually educate the children, which they used to do on occasion way back when I went to school in Redditch and got 5 A levels in 1983. But now I won't send my children to the schools here as I feel that an education rather than a childhood full of cramming is best for them.
Louise, Redditch

Can I ask David Miliband exactly what is wrong with elitism? There is little trouble accepting the concept in sport or business, so why does education have to be different? If there were more and better routes post education (i.e. proper apprenticeships) then there would not be the need to push more and more people through degrees that may be better offered as on the job training and proper trades. But of course the government don't want to be seen to alienate the middle classes.
Incidentally, I come from a working class background and now work in the university system. I see at first hand that students now have less of a grasp of basic principles (like maths and the ability to write cogently in their own language) than they used to. It's not the students' fault, they work in the system they're in, but we are now not in a meritocracy, where the best get what they deserve; instead we are in a gift system, where everyone seemingly has to get something.
Darren Stephens, Whitby, UK

As someone who completed his A-levels last year, I'm dismayed to hear yet again that I had them handed to me on a plate. I put in a great deal of effort - as do others - during a difficult time in my life to achieve my A-levels, and for pen-pushing individuals to say that they are easy and almost worthless really hits a sore spot. It's thanks to people like him that I now have problems finding a job. Thank you, Mr. Miliband!
Andy, England

Part of the reason that grades are higher is the way the questions are now asked
Abigail, London, UK

Part of the reason that grades are higher is the way the questions are now asked. In the 60s and 70s, a maths paper would consist of 10 short questions. The student would have to think about how to go about answering the question, and write a couple of pages in answer. Nowadays, the students are lead through the questions so they do not need to think for themselves.
Abigail, London, UK

Something will have to change with this system or else all students will be getting top grades. Surely the point of having a graded system is that you can distinguish between the students. If teaching and student intelligence has improved, why not make the exams harder to get more of a distribution of grades?
Rich, Surrey, UK

Can someone please tell me what is the point of an exam if over 95% of people pass it? What is the benefit of such an exam as a judgement of intelligence and diligence?
Edwin Thornber, UK and Bucharest, Romania

Arguing about 'A' level results is not the real issue here, the real issue is, is our education suitable for Britain in the 21 century? Are we turning out students that are equipped for the modern Britain? Passing exams where much of the teaching is done by 'exam question coaching' does not help one iota. And since our government seems to be abandoning manufacturing, design, science and technology to the rest of the world, we should be looking at new ways to encourage our children to learn and to earn a living in retail, IT and media dominated economy.
Pete, Birmingham UK

Never mind whether the exams are harder or not, if more A grades are awarded, they are worth less. People keep saying they are insulted by the suggestion that the exams are getting easier. Are they therefore insulting the people who got lower grades in the past?
Mark Richards, Swindon Wilts

The fact that AS-levels are supposed to be easier than A2 levels are therefore 'by definiton' easier than the old A-levels is a misconception. With the old syllabuses there was still as much variation in difficulty over the duration of the course you just weren't tested on the less complicated material after a year to get it out of the way. It was the clutter of an entire two years work to sift through whilst revising that made the old system 'harder'. The level of understanding remains the same its the fact that under the new system students attain grades as they go, which makes it easier for them to get higher grades.
Ben Thornhill, Watford, England

My daughters sat GCSE French in 1995 and 1997 respectively. Both achieved A* passes. I showed them the French '0' level paper I sat (and just passed) in 1963. Some of our really good students of French achieved top grades - not many, just five or six - and they were fairly fluent French speakers. My daughters could not imagine having to write essays, to answer questions in French, etc, and felt they would have been lucky to pass, let alone get A*s, had they sat the 1963 paper.
Jenny, Benenden, Kent

I wonder how many kids are passing A-levels with minimum knowledge of the subject, but excellent knowledge of how to apply it in exams
Alison, Leeds, UK
I think that newer methods of assessing students such as continuous assessment have made it easier for more students to pass. It doesn't mean they are easier as such, but that students who don't cope well with exams have a much better chance of showing what they are capable of. However, I know from when I was at school, that we were coached on how to pass exams and use the system to our advantage. I wonder how many kids are passing A-levels with minimum knowledge of the subject, but excellent knowledge of how to apply it in exams. Quite simply, these kids will really struggle when put to test in the real world or at university.
Alison, Leeds, UK

Being in a position where I may hire some of the people coming out of school having just finished their A levels, I have to say the quality of individuals coming out of schools has deteriorated. I know it's harsh on the students, and by no means is it their fault, but unfortunately, it's a cruel world out here.
AA, London, UK

What is the point in exams where everybody gets top marks? Regardless of whether this is because the pupils are more intelligent or the exams are easier, it makes no sense to have marks improving year after year. The government should be questioning why exams are failing more and more to indicate the skills of children within their peer group. In a society that progresses and becomes more advanced all the time, we should expect the exams to be harder than previous years, keeping grades level and ensuring we measure children accurately. The children of today aren't more intelligent, the society of today is more intelligent.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)

Modular courses and coursework make it easier to get better grades but put a lot of pressure on students due to the workload. There is something wrong with the system when 'A' grades are so common that 'A star' grades have been introduced to distinguish the better students.
Andy, Reading, UK

Each year the number of people obtaining 'A' grades increases. So if one were to plot a graph with year along the bottom and percentage of A grades up the side, at what year would 100% of people sitting A-levels obatain an 'A' ??
Gary, Newcastle, UK

Most "lower" grade universities are setting pseudo courses to teach their students basic skills needed to do even a modern modular degree because students arrive with such poor language, maths and analytical skills. Results are getting better, but education isn't. This is not demeaning the effort students put into A-levels, I'm sure they find them just as hard as people did 25 years ago - if you start from a lower point the reach will be just as great.
Jez, UK

I have to say that I am concerned about A-Level results- in Scotland, only 20% of pupils even get a pass at Advanced Higher (the nearest equivalent to A-Level) so there must be something wrong if nearly everyone in England is getting AAA!
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland

Funny how when A-Level were at their "hardest" during the 50s and 60s Britain was in an economic managed decline
Antony, Norwich, England
Funny how when A-Level were at their "hardest" during the 50s and 60s Britain was in an economic managed decline and now when they are so easy we have one of the strongest performing economies in the world. Young people today may not know all the Kings of England from 1066 or have rote learned the periodic table and log tables, but our economy doesn't appear to be suffering for it. Be grateful to the young, your pensions would be a lot worse if we were as bad as you!
Antony, Norwich, England

I did my first A-Levels in 1981, then another in 1998 to add a few more UCAS points before going back to university. The 1998 A-Level was much tougher than the 1981 version. I had to work all the time to meet coursework requirements instead of cramming in the last couple of weeks as in 1981. I think that many of those who criticise modern A-levels as too easy would struggle to cope with the workload.
Trevor, London UK

The fact of the matter is that A-Levels are now useless in the world. I have only ever used my single A-Level to get onto a HND course. In all the subsequent interviews after leaving university i was never asked to prove my qualifications (HND & Degree). They just took my word for it. My advice to students is to forget academia and get real life experience in the workplace, it's much more valuable
Stephen, Cardiff

I do not agree at all with David Miliband. Experience has told me that the old A- levels were much harder. When I sat mine years ago there were no modules, no course work and a much harder syllabus to follow. You only had the one chance on the day to do well.
Roz Mercer, Bedford, U.K.

Why can students not be seen to becoming more successful due to the better quality of teaching and resources available in A-Level education? Having been through one of my most stressful times of life, I find it hurtful and upsetting to hear that my efforts are being described as worthless because "exams are getting easier".
Ashley, Hemel Hempstead, UK

While exams aren't technically getting easier, it is getting easier to pass them
Neil, NJ, USA (ex UK)
I used to be a maths teacher and was certainly aware that there is a distinct pattern to the questions that appeared year after year - basically the same questions just with different numbers. Teachers and students recognise this and learn how to answer these questions; they are being coached to pass the exams, not taught how to think. A friend of mine works at a university and he has told me that it is evident that this is what is happening. The students he has come across expect much more from their lecturers and aren't used to having to think for themselves and apply what they have learnt. So, while exams aren't technically getting easier, it is getting easier to pass them.
Neil, NJ, USA (ex UK)

The Government is bound to defend the results as it makes them look good, but the figures speak for themselves. I took A-levels in 1969 and there is no way the pass rate could have increased by so much just by good teaching and hard work. We had good teachers - is the government really saying we didn't work hard? My daughter took A-levels 3 years ago - in one subject, the year after, the syllabus was changed removing the more difficult areas. After a gap year she found herself at university being studying those things again because people who'd come direct from A-levels hadn't been taught them.
Geoff, Manchester, UK

There will never be agreement on whether there has been dumbing down of A-levels as everyone has their own opinion! However, as an academic I can certainly say that it has become easier to achieve higher A-level scores. This is due to changes in the way students sit A-levels. 18 years ago, when I sat my A-levels, if you achieved a B or C and wanted to improve your grade you had to re-sit the whole year. Students today, however, do their A-levels as a series of modules.

If they do badly in one or two modules (bringing their overall grade down) they have the option of ignoring these marks and re-sitting the modules they want. This means that students who would have achieved a B or C under the old system can now push their grade up to A by backdoor re-sits. While I can see the merits of students not re-taking a whole year to improve their grades it is obvious that the modular system is inflating grades.
LR, Sheffield, UK

When I was teaching A-levels, I was asked to 'fiddle' with grades by marking up, handing work back several times to make sure they pass and even working 40/50 hours a week holding workshops at the end of the year to 'drag' student's work up a grade or two. I didn't find that students were more intelligent than they used to be, I generally found them to be lethargic and they understood fully that there was little chance of them failing, as the teachers need them to pass, not only to secure their jobs but because of league tables and funding. I acknowledge that not all students are lazy and many do deserve the grades that they get, but in my experience, it's certainly not the majority of students.
Mrs Davies, Warwickshire

It's very unfair that every year there is a media frenzy that puts down the efforts of these youngsters
Eileen, Warrington
It's not a fair comparison as the exams and the environment in which they are taken have changed so much over the years. When I took my exams in 1980 it was all about cramming, learning by rote, lots and lots of reading and note-taking. Now they are modular, with points picked up along the way. Technology is more accessible with computers almost common-place. I think it's very unfair that every year there is a media frenzy that puts down the efforts of these youngsters by stating that their achievements are worth less because the exams are easier.
Eileen, Warrington

The Government wants everyone to pass their A-levels. What they haven't grasped yet is the fact that not everyone is the same. There are some very clever people, and some very stupid people. It's not elitism, it's a fact. To get everyone to pass, you can either make the exams easier, or massively improve teaching, resources and discipline.
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK

I sat A-Level maths in 1996. During the course we were given O-Level papers from the mid-70s which were at the limit of, or beyond, what we were being taught for A-level. When my sister sat the same exam in 2000 the teachers had given up even trying to use the 1970s papers. Of course A-level standards are falling. This is not meritocracy - this a reduction of all to the lowest common denominator.
Iain, Cambs, UK

Why do we bother with this debate year-in, year-out? There are strong cases for both sides of the argument. What we should really be asking is: are A Levels sufficient enough to bridge the ever-widening skills gap?
Asif Givashi, London

30 years ago, students at universities most regularly got 2.2.degrees. Now the commonest award, despite a massive expansion in the number of places at university is 2.1. Are degrees easier, or are standards improving? 30 years ago many university applicants came from homes in which no member of the family had ever attended higher education. Today, due to the expansion of access in the 60's and 70's there are far more A' level students with parental support / involvement for those doing A/S and A level. I believe that too makes a significant contribution to student achievement.
Vince Allen, Exeter, Devon

If our students are getting brighter, then why are the universities and employers complaining about the standard of our new undergraduates/graduates? Why is the level of Maths and English deteriorating? I'd rather believe the universities and the employers, than the government. The government is only concerned about spin to make themselves look good. .
Sanjay, London, UK

Surely the rise in pass rates is a sign of commitment to education by students and also the continuing improvement of teaching at sixth form level. I don't see how it could mean that exams are being dumbed down. Maybe everyone should try A-level exams for themselves.
Cat, Cambridge UK

Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with a standardised numeracy and literacy test. This would provide a useful benchmark to see how standards are varying from year to year.
Wes, Manchester

While I do not doubt that standards of teaching are generally better than in the past, that does not fully explain the dramatic increase in good passes. I have seen A-level papers for science subjects dating back from the 70's to the present day and the whole way the subject is examined has changed radically...quite simply the exams are easier and today one has several chances to retake failed modules that simply did not exist in the past.
Angus Gulliver, Luton, UK

I am not surprised at the attitude of those criticizing A level standards, as it is traditional in the UK to cut down those who have done well. The government should be applauded for sticking up for the hard working students and teachers, rather than trying to 'take them down a peg or two'.
Dan, London, UK

I don't want to denigrate the efforts of students and teachers but the reality is that the exams are easier
Jonathan, Altrincham
I don't want to denigrate the efforts of students and teachers who can only work with what they are given, however the reality is that the exams are easier. For a simple example consider the notion of the A1 - A2 farce. A1 exams are easier than A2 and the old A level, but they contribute exactly the same weighting in respect of marks as the A2 paper. Hence by Government's own admission half the paper is simpler and you don't need an O level to work that one out.
Jonathan, Altrincham

This debate is so sterile, and to be honest it does nobody any good even having this debate. Serious discussions are needed on content of A-levels, as universities are having problems with candidates ill-equipped to cope with the demands of certain degrees, but this fuss about pass rates doesn't help this debate.
Nathan James, Liverpool, UK

I went into teacher training in 2002, and left six months later. There were a number of reasons for it, unsurprisingly many of those concerned discipline, but one reason sticks out. The children did not want to learn. When we went through their English poetry anthology in preparation for the GCSE exams, I had a whole class rebellion because I wasn't spoon feeding them what they needed for the exam. I tried to get them to think about the poems and questions for themselves - big mistake!

Practice exam papers were literally just a spilling out of terminology which they didn't have a clue about, it was just a word scrawled in the margin of the poem. They couldn't apply what they (should) know to the question. I have no doubt that there are some hard working and deserving students out there, but the majority of lazy students are bringing them down. In that way standards are slipping.
Sarah, 23, Birmingham, West Mids

I know that 7 years ago A' levels were no easier than they were in the 70s. We often did past papers from the 70s and 80s and the questions were of a similar difficulty to more recent papers. The curriculum has changed very slightly but as much has been added as has been taken away.
Allie, London

I am a teacher, and whilst it is true that A-levels are easier than say, 30 years ago, it is also true that the quality of teaching has improved enormously, especially of new teachers, and this needs to be recognised.

I agree with Anon, teaching has improved over the years. In the late 70s and early 80s standards were exceptionally poor. As for advice that young adults get nowdays regarding careers, hats off! It did not exist in the 80s, teachers put you through the mincer and that was it, out you go and be good.
Mark, Romford, England

Minister attacks A-level critics
17 Aug 04  |  Education
Call for 'more rigorous' A-levels
03 Jun 04  |  Education
A-level students 'face fewer exams'
27 Mar 04  |  Education
GCSEs and A-levels 'to be replaced'
14 Feb 04  |  Education

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