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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Results day
Pallavi Mishra celebrates three A grade A levels
Another record-breaking year for A-level results brings with it joy for many teenagers, and more questions about whether exams are getting easier.

The BBC was with students as they opened their results and heard from several critics and supporters of the system.

The moment of truth

Students opening A level results at Cadbury College in Birmingham
Good news for students in Birmingham

A group of sixth formers from Cadbury College in Birmingham share their emotions as they open the all-important brown envelopes in front of the cameras. Fortunately for most of them the results were better than expected

 Click here to watch

Another record year

Girls are widening the gap in achievement over boys

For the 18th year running A-level results have improved in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Once again the results show that girls are doing better than boys.

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'Great achievement'

David Hart, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers
David Hart, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers

Some critics say the exams are getting progressively easier but teachers' representatives emphatically believe the results are due to hard work.

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AS-levels criticised

AS level results being collected
AS level exams have stretched the system

For the first time students have been sitting AS-levels, the first part of revised A-levels. The results have been good but the added burden on schools and students has proved controversial. These were the thoughts of students at Cedar's Upper School in Leighton Buzzard.

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Universities' response

Parkinson building, Leeds University
The government wants to double university access by the year 2010

The publication of A-level results heralds the annual scramble for university places. It is estimated that thousands of places will remain unfilled. Roderick Flood, president of Universities UK, and James Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University, discuss the issue.

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Industry sceptical

Filling out an application form
Some employers are unhappy about annual improvements

The continued improvement in A-level results has led to questions being raised about whether the exams are easier or the marking standards less testing. Some senior figures in business say the annual improvement is making it hard for employers to make objective judgements about students' abilities.

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