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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Have you had your A-level results?
Annabel Lee (right) hugs her friend after attaining 5 A-Level passes in her results at King Edward VI Handsworth School, Birmingham
Are you pleased or disappointed with your results?

As around 260,000 A-level students wait for their exam results on Thursday, education minister Lord Adonis has defended the exams against critics who say they are in "terminal decline".

Earlier this year proposals to set up a diploma system in England, to replace GCSEs and A-levels, were rejected by the government, who argued the present system would work better.

How did you find your exams? Do you think that exams are getting easier? Is the A-level still a valid qualification?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Graham Shelton, UK:
With examination results all coming in thick and fast, how should we restore an effective education system that will command respect from pupils, parents and employers?

The fact of the matter is that A-Levels are far easier now than ever. This is obvious when applying for a job as they take no notice of A-Levels. They are only interested in either a BTEC qualification (as they require basic skills) or at least a degree.
Stephen, Cardiff

In my experience, even the home-grown graduates, while being good at self-presentation, can hardly compete for post-graduate or PhD posts that involve a bit of maths or physics, with their overseas competitors.
Dmitri, London

Last time I showed a class of students an A Level maths exam paper from 10 years ago they realised just how easy they have got it now! I feel sorry for really intelligent pupils who are being undermined by people getting A grades for significantly lower achievements.
Teacher Jim, Birmingham

It's becoming routine that the success of high achievers in examinations are overshadowed by criticism and doubt
Daniel, London, UK
What's wrong with these people? Why do they pop up year after year? It's becoming routine that the success of high achievers in examinations are overshadowed by criticism and doubt. These students work hard all year round only to have their successes devalued by claims that exams are "becoming easier". Why are people so set on refusing to accept the progressive success across the UK in education? Do they fear that with new achievers their successes will become worthless? Well done to all those who achieved in their A-levels. I wish you every success for the future.
Daniel, London, UK

Having completed A levels 2 years ago, I wouldn't say A levels are easy, what annoys me most is when people belittle students fantastic achievements when they have no idea about how hard or easy the exams are. If the many people saying A-levels are too easy were to actually sit them, I might have a bit more respect for their point of view. Is it not possible that standards of teaching are actually improving!?
Alex, Durham

Parents have an insatiable appetite for league tables and there would be public outcry if they were removed. So why are we blaming the teachers for focusing too heavily on getting pupils to pass exams rather than giving a deep understanding of the whole subject? If you were a parent of a primary school child, would you be happy if there were no league tables for the secondary schools in the area? Sadly I doubt it.
Colin, Rugby

As a senior examiner, Head of English and a teacher for over 20 years, I am disgustedby the comments about A levels becoming easier. I still have a copy of the A level English paper I did in 1977 and can assure you that today's papers are just as rigorous. Comparisons to A level pass rates in the 1960s and 1970s are preposterous: when I was at school there was no pressure to perform, no schools compared their pass marks to any other school and league tables did not exist. Today all schools are constantly aware of improving results - but once we do, the politicians who created the competitive ethos in the first place claim that 'exams are too easy', instead of celebrating the very real progress schools - and our pupils - have made!
Mike Parker, Stockport,UK

Students are picking easier subjects
Daniela, Loughbrough
I did my A levels 3 years ago and I'm studying mathematics now at uni, and I think it's not a case of them getting easier, it's a case that students are picking easier subjects. It's a shame that there is such a decline in what I think are real subjects in A-levels such as maths, science and foreign languages etc. More students should take these up, then maybe the pass rate and number of students getting grade A will soon change.
Daniela, Loughbrough

Being a student at the University of York, I have previously sat my A-Levels and am continually alarmed at the remarks made by people claiming the exams are getting easier, can somebody please give me some shred of evidence, other than the grades increase. I personally have tested the system by taking 10 years of maths mechanics exams myself, which has clarified that although the difficulty may fluctuate slightly every year, the general difficulty remains the same.
Dale Southall, Bradford

Is it really fair on students like myself who feel like there's something to celebrate when without fail, every year, 'Results Day' is marred by this debate about the value of today's A-levels? We students have to achieve our best within the system we have. Rather than going on every year about what's wrong with the system, let's talk about how it can be improved, instead of making students feel like what they've done is useless.
Lucy, Essex

Congratulations to all students. Forget the debate - you worked hard and you should be proud of what you've achieved.
Richard Hawley, Essex, UK

Of course the exams aren't getting easier. I passed mine over 20 years ago, and the history A-level this year looked just as tough as when I took it. Results are getting better due to better levels of education, nutrition, welfare and less poverty. We should be worried if results got worse in modern society, not better.
Kevin, Colby, Isle of Man

Is it more that A-level students are studying harder than before? There is certainly a lot more pressure applied by friends and family to do well from my experience. There are also more options available and also other alternatives to A-levels out there which mean that only the 'true' academics are studying at A-level.
Louise Lenz, Herefordshire

There is no question they are easier today than 10, 15 years ago. Through my work I have encountered numerous graduates whose basic spelling, grammar and numeracy are extremely poor. They wouldn't have passed A-levels, let alone a degree, a decade ago.
Sadie, London

Just a response to all those people that are criticising those that say A-levels are easy. We aren't saying they are easy, we are saying they are easier. Perhaps if you studied English to the same level as your elders did in the past, you'd be aware of the distinction.
Richard Harrison, UK

Anything that has a 96% plus pass rate becomes a meaningless measure in the real world
David Miles, Crawley
Simply anything that has a 96% plus pass rate becomes a meaningless measure in the real world. This leads to universities and business putting in unnecessary additional measures to do the sorting the A-level is supposed to do.
David Miles, Crawley

Instead of setting a pass mark of say 70% for an A, 60 for a B, etc why not set a proportion of the entrants for each grade, ie the top 5% get an A, next 10% get a B etc. This way it doesn't matter whether the exams are getting easier or not, the best grades will go to the best pupils again.
Gordon, Belfast

I have just got my AS-level results, and to be honest I probably did less work this year than I did whilst doing my GCSEs. I still achieved four A's in German, maths, physics and chemistry. Draw what conclusions you like from that, but I think that can only point to easy exams.
Eric, Newbury

It is an open secret amongst teachers that A-levels are getting easier. I did A-levels four years ago and whenever the teachers wanted to stretch us they would get past papers from 20 years ago. The facts speak for themselves. When A-levels were introduced only about 10% of the population studied them with half of these passing. Now 50% study them and nearly all of these pass. Anyone who does not believe they are getting easier is simply deluding themselves.
David King, Leeds

The module system of courses makes the higher grade far easier to achieve
Shetal, London
The module system of courses makes the higher grade far easier to achieve. If students are tested under one final exam, expect that the ensuing results will give a better insight into their capabilities to function in working/university environment.
Shetal, London

If it is essentially about competing for places at university or for jobs, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to give grades based on the percentile across all those taking the exam? The number taking exams each year means there is little chance that there is a "special" year with exceptionally good or bad results.
C Harvey, Welwyn Garden City, UK

As the parent of a successful A-level student I feel qualified to say that the exams are not easy. They are different to years ago as they are partly coursework related but are still a valid qualification.
Debbie Harris, Heathfield, East Sussex

Why can't people just accept that perhaps it's the standard of teaching that's improving and not the exams getting easier? It's so easy for people to criticise once they're done with going through the system.
Tom, London

I sat my A-levels two years ago, and they do not, by any stretch of the imagination, test a student's intelligence; they are merely memory tests, and nothing more, the teaching and revision for which is encouraging parrot-fashion regurgitation. Something needs to be done. People have been criticising the standard of education and exams ever since the national curriculum was introduced; perhaps this indicates that there is something intrinsically wrong with the national curriculum.
Becky, Kingston

Pupils are taught how to pass the exam and not taught the subject as a whole
Paul H, Essex
It may not be that A-levels are getting easier. What may be the cause of success however is that pupils are taught how to pass the exam and not taught the subject as a whole. With the pressure piled on schools and teachers to show results it is hardly surprising. Congratulations are still in order to those who gained their required grades.
Paul H, Essex

Can't we settle the debate about the standard of A-level papers by putting some current students through exams from 10 or 15 years ago and seeing how they fare?
Steve, Birmingham

A good exam will have distribution of results such that the highest mark gained is 99% and the lowest mark gained is 1%. Considering the number of times I got 100% in my A-level exams (completed this summer), the exams are inappropriate, whether they are getting easier is impossible to prove.
Alexander, Sheffield, UK

Having received a BDD in my A-levels today I feel disappointed. To say the exams are easy is preposterous. The examinations, especially A2, remain as challenging as ever. I was accepted to my first choice university though.
John Elfed Hughes, Near Llanrwst, North Wales

I have to agree that the A-levels have been getting easier for a long time. I sat my A-levels back in 1996. I did past exam papers to prepare for my exams, and I can say without a doubt that papers from past years were far more difficult. I found out that my maths A-level course content had been halved by 2002. How easy is that?
Kapil, Harrow

I sat my A-levels two years ago, and thought that they were reasonably difficult at the time. However having done two years at uni, at Worcester College, Oxford, I realize that A-levels do not prepare you for the level required for further education.
Anonymous, Newton Aycliffe, UK

There are a lot more "soft" subjects now
Dee, Cheshire, UK
There are a lot more "soft" subjects now. My daughter is taking GCSES in Dance and PE. The time being wasted on such subjects deflects time from more serious subjects such as science or maths which are now watered down for fear of stressing out our little darlings.
Dee, Cheshire, UK

The feeling I get from many current and recently retired teachers is that the exams have not got any easier, but that the pass marks required are far lower than 20 years ago. In 1985 you would have needed maybe 80% for an A grade, but now some subjects allow an A grade at perhaps 50%.
Swifty, Norfolk

Has nobody considered that the rising pass rates make A-levels harder, since a simple pass is no longer considered an achievement unless it is a top grade? The pressure to perform is higher.
Jonathan Adamson, Solihull, UK

Considering the huge amounts of taxpayers' money being invested in education I would be deeply disturbed if the pass rate didn't increase. My congratulations to all those who got the grades they wanted.
Graham Smith, Leeds, UK

A-levels are not easier, just different
Jay M, Derby
A-levels are not easier, just different. When I took my A-levels in the 1970s I had a choice of four out of 12 questions, so I didn't need to learn the whole syllabus. Now students have little or no choice, so have to learn each module thoroughly. My AS-level class recently did some questions from a 1970s exam paper. They had no difficulty at all in answering the questions.
Jay M, Derby

As a not particularly bright student who got an A in English, history and economics I can assure everyone, A-levels are a joke. But hey, I lucked out so who am I to complain?
Mat, Norwich, UK

Instead of comparing the easiness of A Levels, why don't you question the whole British Education structure? I am at University studying Economics and most foreign students are much better at the maths. I got an A in my A Level maths but I haven't covered half what they do back in India/China/Germany.
Saj, England

I sat my A-levels four years ago, and would have to agree that exams are getting easier. Most subjects have a set 'model' for questions, with slightly different numbers from the years before. There's little to challenge what a person has learnt, an exam now serves as a test of short term memory rather than a test of understanding of the subject. Also, try comparing the syllabus of A-level mathematics in the last few years, with that of O-levels in the pre-GCSE era, you may find some overlap. The syllabus is being simplified, exams are not taxing enough, and students know what to expect - of course pass rates would go up!
John D (just left Uni), Leamington Spa

Give these kids a break
Joseba Prendergast, Houston,TX
Give these kids a break. They work hard get good results and we call it easy not fair. I remember passing my A-levels and having to hear the same rubbish when I lived back in Wales. Let's congratulate them. In the US when kids do well they encourage them.
Joseba Prendergast, Houston,TX

As someone who has just done AS levels, I am in no position to comment on whether the exams have become harder or easier. However, looking at the statistics, it is clear that A-levels are no longer performing their intended job - to distinguish students applying for university. In short; A levels need to become harder to distinguish exceptional candidates from good candidates from weak candidates, instead of serving as a "pat on the back" system to 96% of them.
George Wright, London

I am a student I find it indisputable that exams, including A-Levels, have got easier over time. Looking at some past Maths and Physics A-Level questions I see much more breadth, creativity and imagination required in the old questions than the newer ones which are palpably predictable and formulaic, though no pushovers by any means. I think in Biology this is particularly evident: you are virtually guaranteed one question of a certain type which should be answered in a certain way using your handy pre-learnt bullet points. It was far less predictable and considerably more stimulating in A-Level papers of the 80s and earlier.
Isaac, UK

Year after year it's the same story - some know-it-all in a position of relative power simply insults the hard work of all involved. I sat my A-levels in the first year of the AS fiasco, and I was livid then, as I still am. I would like to personally invite the entire government (yes, all of them) to resit their A-levels. I suspect that without a bit of that good old fashioned hard work they'd actually do rather badly. However, since they're easy, no revision will be permitted. Only those with satisfactory grades will be allowed to remain in office.
A Bannatyne, Leeds, UK

Students: no one is blaming you - of course you have worked hard. Yet the fact remains, question for question are examinations today, as intellectually rigorous as they were 10, 15 years ago? No they are not. I took my A Levels in 2001 and got straight As. My sister had taken hers 9 years earlier and I saw her past papers. There was no contest, the examination level in her day was of a higher standard. I know people who attained a B at A Level French and quite frankly, their spoken French is appalling.
Jonathan, Philadelphia, USA

The standard of AS-level exams now is approximately what GCE O-Level was 20 years ago
Shan, Lydney UK
I am a professional private tutor for A level exams. I find the standard of AS-level exams now is approximately what GCE O-Level was 20 years ago and the full A Level still nowhere near the older A Level. My students do work very hard but they certainly need to as I am horrified at the poor preparation they get in both State schools and private schools alike. Students from top schools start with me during their AS year unable to write a short basic essay at all. Teaching to the test is producing a generation of illiterate box tickers and I have more work than I can handle because the young people and their parents know quite well the schooling is inadequate.
Shan, Lydney UK

To suggest that a higher pass rate necessarily implies an easier exam is to make a fundamental logical mistake. The fact is, the quality of teaching has risen markedly in schools over the past years. However, the mere fact that we have this debate every year indicates that we put too much emphasis on the grades of exams, and too little on what is gained by a student by studying a number of A Levels for two years. Examinations are not medals, to be awarded to those with outstanding innate ability in order to sort the "wheat" form the "chaff" - rather, there are a recognition of what greater knowledge and understanding a student has gained of their subject during the course of their studies.
David Green, Flint, UK

I have worked through nearly 10 years worth of past maths exam papers and can assure you that the modules I sat in June were not any easier.
Allen Eccles, Gloucester

Get off the students' case and focus on the adults. The young people do their utmost within the structure they are given. The adults, QCA, Gov, DFES should receive all the flack and react quickly for a change. The young people are free to celebrate and vote!
Anne, Kent

Only in Britain could so many people criticise progressive success.
James McEnaney, Glasgow, Scotland

No one seems to think about the 3% or so who won't achieve their grades. Having done my A-levels and failed to get the grades I needed I would have felt worse if I was told the subjects were getting easier.
Dewi, Manchester

I am waiting for my results tomorrow, but find it insulting when some right-wing bigwig says all A-levels are getting easier. I took 3 hard subjects to A-level - maths and languages - and struggled through with lots of hard work, having been top of the class all through my school years. To say anyone can get straight As in any subject is offensive - the fact is the majority of less academic students nowadays choose easy subjects which can often just be learnt - instead of needing genuine ability (these include media/film studies, business studies, psychology etc). They can simply put the work in with these subjects and get good grades, shying away from sciences and languages because a lot of students know they won't do anywhere near as well. Why else would they choose not to study languages - possibly the most useful subject they could do? I personally think harder subjects should be weighted higher over the subjects which are universally recognised to be on a very different academic level.
Alex, Burgess Hill

A-level and GCSE pass rates are going up because schools are only putting people in for the exams they know will pass. The results are skewed and we should just accept that the kids passing have done well.
Ben, Essex, UK

How frustrating for all our hard-working children, and teachers such as myself, high attainers, to have to deal with this attitude year after year! Those who criticize should try to teach, or take public exams themselves next year, and let's see how they get on. We teachers and students will be celebrating, in spite of all the cold water you can throw!
Janet, Birmingham, UK

I think/hope I got AAB. I believe the increase in pass rate is nothing to do with exams getting easier but the fact that there are more resources and better teaching staff available to students.
Stephen Sheridan, Enniskillen

There was a time when British education had an international status. It was recognized. Over the period of time the standard of British academic level has been going down hill and it will continue to do so. Replacing O-levels with GCSEs was the worse step forward. In doing so, the students lacked, in learning the fundamentals of the subject.
Nishant Amin, Hove, UK

I teach GCSE through AS/A-Level, and yes exams in general are getting easier, but not only that, now we are supposed to teach pupils how to pass an exam instead of the subject itself, and on top of that they are choosing easier subjects. Last year some of my pupils attended only one lesson, yet achieved C, I wonder whether they'd achieve B this year?
Ms Wellington, Warwick, England

What do you expect when courses like 'Media Studies' are considered main stream subjects nowadays? My relative said the only reason he chose Media Studies was because it was an easy qualification for him to get! After listening to some of the questions he was set, and never taking a single class myself, I could see why.
Andrew, Twickenham

A-levels now are a debased currency
William Charlwood, Marlborough
It's obvious that A-levels are easier than they were - just ask a teacher at a good school or a University lecturer as I have over the years. The sad thing is that people who really deserve 3 "A" grades because they are genuinely good no longer get the appropriate credit or kudos because A-levels now are a debased currency.
William Charlwood, Marlborough, Wilts

I found some of my final exams OK, but a couple were really difficult and may have prevented me from getting the 3 A's I need to get into Cambridge. I find it insulting when the government says A-levels are getting easier. I think that students are prepared to work harder, and there are more opportunities in the more skilled areas for women and people with disabilities than ever before. This means that a greater majority of people taking their A levels will try harder to achieve their best. Also, it is non-compulsory, meaning that only people who want to work for them are doing so, and are therefore more likely to be people who will work hard at them. Thanks for your time.
Dominic Wells, Wadhurst, East Sussex

We're both so frightened, we believe that the claim that A-levels are getting easier is complete rubbish. People nowadays are being given more opportunities, more support and students don't want manual or administrative work. Not going to university has become quite stigmatised. We believe that our A-levels have been extremely difficult, and we have had to work so hard for them. Of course the A-level is a valid qualification, to get a grade it takes hard work and determination, we rubbish claims that it has been made easier.
Stephanie and Kaleigh, Cardiff

I think the problem with the current A-level system is the teaching methods have improved 10-fold over the last decade or so, but the exams have not been updated to reflect this. The exams are not any easier, or harder, the pupils just know more than they did in the past meaning the grades have improved!
Emily, Sandhurst, UK

I really think that people are wrong to say that A-levels are easy, having studied A-levels this year I think I can say on behalf of many A-level students that the word easy is completely the wrong word to be used for describing the A-level exams. The reason results are getting better is not because exams are getting easier but because of the hard work that both the student and teacher put into the revision and the exams. I would like to see the education minister sit back in an exam and take the tests I'm sure easy would not be the word that he would use after sitting an exam.
Kennedy Emson, Grays, Essex

Science in particular has been watered down
Matt, UK
The exams are getting easier, it is a statement of fact. Not just easier, but far less useful for further study. I got straight A's last year and if it wasn't for the fact that I did Further Maths, I would have learned nothing of any use to studying degree level Physics. Certainly A-level physics was a useless collection of simplistic formulae and pointless definitions. Science in particular has been watered down and made devoid of any bits worth getting your teeth into.
Matt, UK

I'll be collecting my AS results tomorrow with my friends. None of us found this first year easy, so it really niggles me when people make sweeping statements saying that the exams are easier. Yes, we do coursework instead of just terminal examinations, but people don't realise quite how much work coursework involves, it's not just writing an essay you know. As for exams, fair enough, the system has changed, but please don't insult our intelligence by suggesting it's easy, because it certainly isn't.
Ben, Staffordshire

Having not seen a recent A-level paper or teaching methods I won't make a comment on whether A-levels are getting easier. However, when recruiting I'm finding that recent students just aren't as good as students from several years ago. My company will probably soon give up offering school-leavers jobs because it just isn't worth the effort in providing the education they should have got at school. I agree with people who say students are being taught how to pass exams and know nothing about the subject.
Martin, England

In my opinion, A-levels must be getting easier. I went to a very good private school in Wales and even the brightest pupils who were headed for Oxbridge had the time to study for 4 A-levels, the rest of us studying for 3 A-levels. In addition, to get straight A grades in all subjects was rare. When average students these days can take 6 or even more A-levels and gain A* grades in all, then clearly either something is very wrong with the grading system, or we have bred a generation of geniuses. Maybe we ought to revert to the examination only system, to see how well students have been able to retain the knowledge they have gained during their studies.
Kay, Gloucester, UK

I've just taken my A-Levels and am petrified about tomorrow, but during the exams I found my dad's A-Level physics notes and they were neither more substantial nor covered harder topics than my notes, they were practically identical!
Anon

The more difficult sections of the subjects are slowly removed and the style of question asked is made easier
James, Cheltenham
I have been a teacher for 7 years and despite the guilt trip the government put on the nation that we are down grading the hard work undertaken by pupils. The fact is the system is getting easier to pass as the more difficult sections of the subjects are slowly removed and the style of question asked is made easier. Often they are broken down containing clues and pointers for pupils. I'm not disputing that pupils do not work hard they do but they are getting better grades because the exams are easier a fact. As a recent test I set a question from an 8-year-old paper on a particular core topic and even my best students only achieved a C grade. People please take your heads out of the clouds and change this before it is too late.
James, Cheltenham

I'm going to receive my A-Levels tomorrow and frankly, I'm terrified. I'm also extremely annoyed by the people who say that the only reason that people are getting higher grades and increased pass rates is because exams are getting easier. I do believe that this argument does have some foundation in truth but it can't be the only reason. People should consider factors like exam resits and extra curricular study. I just hope that people remember what tomorrow is about for the 265,000 students who are going to receive their results on what is for many the most important day of their lives so far.
Louise Anyon, Newport, Shropshire

Anyone who says exams are not like they were in their day should be forced to actually do the exams themselves before they denigrate the hard work of others. End of debate.
David Brown, Cambridge, England

I have taken my A-levels this summer and I don't know whether or not they are getting easier, but what I do know is that in schools and colleges students are not being taught a subject, they are being taught how to pass an exam.
Kate, 18, Hereford

A-Level mathematics and sciences are certainly much easier than they were in the past. My students starting at Cambridge University arrive lacking in many fundamentals that would have been expected of them 10 years ago. We're discussing at the moment extending some courses because students aren't arriving with the skills they once did.
John, Cambridge

There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about moving to a system more like the International Baccalaureate. It seems to me that we should move to the IB itself. It's a rigorous and well-recognised qualification, and is well insulated from political interference.
Hugh Parker, Birmingham, England

It is not true to say that A grades are the norm but since the introduction of modular exams and retakes it is certainly more achievable. Standards may have dropped but at least the students today don't spend two years studying and then enter the exam room to find that their teachers failed to teach them a large proportion of the syllabus!
Ann, Reading

Not only are the standards of A levels dropping, there is an increasing imbalance in the subjects taken. Less and less study science and maths while more and more study psychology and sociology. This is a dangerous precedent for Britain, potentially eroding our ability to innovate and damaging our future economy.
Dan, Leicester

Please stop telling the kids of today that their exams are getting easier
Sarah, UK
I don't think A levels are getting easier, and A levels grades are often not a good guide as to how someone will perform at university. Many lecturers have told me that some of the students with the highest possible grades then drop out of University, whilst those with poor grades go on to excel. As an example, I only achieved a D grade and two E grades at A level, however I have gone on to gain a 2:1 Bachelor of Engineering and am now doing my doctorate. Please stop telling the kids of today that their exams are getting easier. It's often the last thing you want to hear when you get results like I did and I have gone on to prove that A levels are not necessarily a good guide to how well a student can do.
Sarah, UK

I am 18 and have to achieve three A grades in order to secure a place at Cambridge. All through the A-level course I have worked hard and the exam period was perhaps the most stressful time of my life. I therefore find it insulting that on a day that should be about celebrating the successes of A-level students, the media instead choose to speculate on how much easier the exams have become. Nobody can deny that in the future some reforms need to be made to differentiate between levels of attainment, but nothing is gained through undermining the achievements of current students.
Laura, Reading, UK

It's not that A levels are getting harder, it's teaching that's improved. Problem is we have made what classifies as an A any different. The only way I can see to sort this out is to either move the goal posts for an A level grade and redefine what each grade requires to achieve it or to scrap the A level system and replace it with a new one. I think the second may be less controversial than the first.
Andrew, Kings Lynn

So, when I took my A levels in the early 70s, teachers were all hopeless were they? Presumably, my Physics teacher who did research into sub atomic particles, my Maths teacher who had worked for years in an advanced think tank were utterly unable to get the vast majority of us an A grade because they just couldn't teach? Perhaps my fascination with Physics and Maths was just a matter of chance. I recently found some A level questions on the Web from the 60s to the late 90s. It seems clear to me that the difficulty was on a very general downward trend until they are now almost just common sense. Not a scientific survey, of course, but the question of exam questions could easily be resolved by an independent audit of past and present papers.
Chris Powell, London, UK

I have been teaching some A level maths this year, and the syllabus is far smaller than when I did it 14 years ago.
Hugh, Compton, UK

It is a fact that the academic standards for A-levels have been declining in recent years. I work as an academic at a UK university and have witnessed countless students with A and B grades in science subjects unable to perform simple calculations or even plot simple straight line graphs. It is about time that education was de-regulated and taken away from control of politicians. An independent body should set academic standards - it is ludicrous to have a target of 50 percent of school leavers entering higher education.
James, Bradford, UK

I did my A-levels 15 years ago and every year since then I am glad not to have to go through that again. The workload is still immense, needing long hours of study and creating high levels of stress.
Susannah, London

Throughout my education, I always achieved excellent coursework grades. I spent a great deal of time on these pieces of work. However, I never got the grades I felt I deserved because I could not perform well in an exam environment. Since starting my career, I have never been tested on the spot but had to work on durable projects. Exams do not prepare you for your career, coursework does!
Mark, Glos

I will only be convinced that the exams are 'dumbed down' when critics can show more substantial evidence for it other than mere statistics of rising pass rates, which can easily be the result of other factors, such as better teaching. Otherwise, to say that the system needs reform is reasonable, but to say that the exams are getting easier is clearly not.
Alex, Hong Kong

Too much emphasis is placed on coursework
Keith, Essex
It's all too easy to get A grades because too much emphasis is placed on coursework. The only way to tell the strong from the weak is with testing under pressure situations.
Keith, Essex

If A-levels have not got any easier, why is it that the Irish Leaving Certificate which used to be worth half an A-level is now considered by UCAS to be worth 2/3s of an A-level?
Andrew, London

If students are in fact working better and the teaching is improving, surely there should be a corresponding increase in the grades at university and we can look forward to economic and technical progress as these bright young things advance our country forward?
Robin Duckworth, York, UK

It makes me very angry when people attack the education system and say that A-levels are getting easier. As someone who recently sat my A-levels I know how much work and effort goes in to achieving the grades you want. For people to turn around and say they have been 'dumbed down' takes away all the hard work and effort that all those students have put in over the last two years, I think it's disrespectful and insensitive.
Vicky MacNair, Leeds

As someone who actually took challenging subjects at A-level I would argue that A-levels are getting easier. However, pass rates are increasing because people are increasingly opting for easy subjects like media studies and philosophy. I worked very hard for my A-levels and am still unsure of whether I will make it into university, so claims of A-levels getting easier just make me and everyone else who took a subject with worth feel worse.
Doug, UK

It is completely indisputable that the degree of difficulty of the papers has drastically declined
Tony Fisher, York UK
Unlike Andrew Adonis, I have actually taught physics in a comprehensive school to A-level and S -level/AE level for 26 years. It is completely indisputable that the degree of difficulty of the papers has drastically declined, mostly in the last 10 years. However, my own students have generally shown the ability to tackle much more demanding tasks when I have asked them to and have deserved their very high grades. Suffice it to say that many of the more academic universities are now running courses to bring students up to the standard they used to expect as the norm in physics, which rather destroys Mr Adonis' case.
Tony Fisher, York UK

How dare you say that what people have worked hard for two years isn't good enough. Every year it's stressed that people need to stay in education, that people need to get their bits of paper. Employers don't care if you don't have this, and then people continue to belittle the efforts of these people again. I took A-levels last year, and I passed, it was work, it was an effort. I didn't just do nothing for two years to get my grades. Who gave you the right (complainers on this board) to make people once again feel that what they are doing is not good enough?
Kat Samperi, Birmingham

Yes that's right, let's make us anxious students even more worried by telling us that our grades are worthless. All students can do is jump through the hoops that the previous generation have set up. If previous generations had to be of a higher calibre to succeed, how come these very people have messed up the education system so badly? Why do students always seem to take the backlash for what is essentially the older generations mistakes? We don't set the syllabus, the tests or the coursework?
David, Sussex

The culture of using past papers as revision is what is making papers easier to pass
Alex Neil, Glasgow
I believe that the culture of using past papers as revision is what is making papers easier to pass. The exams themselves may not be dumbed down, but education today is geared towards passing exams, not learning skills.
Alex Neil, Glasgow

A-levels are so dumbed down now that universities are having to establish their own entrance exams and employers cannot find graduates and school leavers with basic skills in the English language.
Mark Simmonds, Bristol

When I was at school, 40% of students taking the A-levels had to fail. This maintained their status. What is the point of an exam where 97% pass?
Anthony English, UK

I'm waiting for my A-level results on Thursday and I would argue with anyone who claims they're getting 'easier'. More people are passing these exams as having academic qualifications is the main route to higher paid jobs. The idea of apprenticeships and 'working your way up' is disappearing from our modern world. More and more the focus is on what qualification you have. Students have realised that to get a decent job, university and extra effort at A-level is what's needed.
David, UK

With an A grade being the norm how do we tell who are the best students?
Ben Corrigan, Southend on Sea
The exams themselves are still relevant however with so many students getting high grades, the mark itself is meaningless. With an A grade being the norm how do we tell who are the best students?
Ben Corrigan, Southend on Sea, UK

As an admin officer in a university I would have to say that A-levels have become easier since I did them only eight years ago. A large portion of our students who got top grades fail in their undergraduate studies because the gap is just too wide. I think that students are working very hard but that A-levels need reforming so that students don't struggle so much when they move on to higher education.
Michelle Stevenson, Cardiff, Wales

As top of my class in history I think I'll get an A. As bottom of my class in English, I also think I'll get an A. I'm 17.
Zoe, Essex

To say that results are so much better now because students work harder and teachers are better is an insult to students and teachers of 20 years ago. I don't doubt that today's students work hard but so did I when I took my A-levels in 1977. The standards of teaching in my school were also excellent.
Jane, Guildford, UK





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