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Thursday, August 20, 1998 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK


Grade A after four weeks' study

Sue Doran: "I'm just shaking all over"

A woman who spent just four weeks studying for an A level in business studies has gained a grade A.

Sue Doran, 37, needed a single A level qualification to take up a place at North Lincs College this autumn studying for an HNC.

"I'm cock-a-hoop," she said after learning the result. "It's unbelievable really: I was only expecting a C and I had a real nightmare with one of the papers."

Mrs Doran's A level course was unorthodox. She was taught by a business studies tutor and examiner, Chris Sivewright, from Oxford, by telephone and over the Internet. The amount of study was minimal.

"It's proof that the Internet cuts down the time needed," Mr Sivewright said. Given the prime minister's aim to have everyone 'wired' then studying over the Internet might be, he suggests, a useful way forward for mainstream education.

"It also shows that schools pad out the course which makes it more difficult than it need be," he argues. "If Sue had studied it over two years, which is the norm, I think she would have got bored.

'It proves nothing'

"Though to be fair to them she concentrated on mock exams using previous years' papers and did not spend ages on projects and visits and so on, which is part of education."

Mrs Doran sat the Associated Examining Board (AEB) A level paper. AEB spokesman George Turnbull says the way she did the course proves nothing - a far bigger factor is her age and experience.

Her previous exposure to business matters and strong self motivation were clearly powerful factors which would not normally apply to the majority of exam entrants.

"She might find her 11-plus a bit easier now too, or her driving test," he said. "The A level is designed for 18 year olds with no experience of the outside world. ... She has got her A level from life."

It would be disgraceful to suggest that the thousands of younger students who sat business studies A levels somehow had an easy time of it, he said - especially for the 14% who failed the exam nationwide this year.

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