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Looking back, it is odd to think I elcted to stay on at my school to take further examinations for AS and A levels as I hated them through GCSE, but in so many ways I am glad I did. The brilliance of AS and A Levels is that they are designed to channel a students talents and aptitudes towards 3 or 4 subjects, often priming them for employment in their chosen area or for university , which is generally the main reason students take AS and A Levels. AS and A-Levels are extremely good qualifications to take and have on your CV as you never know in the future whether you will want to take a degree or further education course for which AS and A Levels are a requirement. Employers are also impressed by the fact that a person has taken a pchoice to better thair educational level and increase their skills as AS and A Levels are not obligatory unlike GCSEs. The one downside wit AS and A Levels is the tremendous amount of work that accompanies them. Whils studying the two years at these levels I spent the majority of my weekend (if not more) doing homework, essays and study. I found that my socail life and hobbies had to take a back seat for two years and this was not hugely agreeable to me or my class mates. Also the tremdous academic jump between the difficulty of GCSEs and AS Levels is enormous, with most students feeling disheartened by the results of their first lot of AS Level exams. However, I would reccomend any student to take AS and A Levels as they will e vaulable to you in later years is not immediatley.
I took my AS Levels last year and am now in the last part of finishing my A Levels. AS Levels are the most common next step up for many people from GCSE's, and at many colleges the courses available are extremely diverse. You can study things such as Psychology, English, Maths, Photography, and even Economics. Most AS Levels are split up into 2 modules, one normally consists of coursework or a January exam, and the other is usually a June or July examination to mark the end of the course. Grades available from AS Levels can be anything from an A to a U Grade. You must be within the A-D borderlines in order to pass the course, but most colleges will not let you proceed to an A Level in the subject unless you have reached a C grade or above. The nature of the courses mean that it's easy to achieve a high grade if you put the work in, but this is similar in many academic situations. You are unable to achieve an A* Grade in AS Levels, but this becomes a possibility in A2 Levels if you do well enough. At the moment, you get to keep the highest grade you achieve through any resits. So if you got 8/10 the first time around, and then 7/10 the second time you take the exam, you still get to keep your 8/10! This is really helpful as it means you can always take a shot at the exams again if you think you can do better. However, there have been rumours that this will all change by 2012, and you will have to keep your most recent grade! Whatever you decide to do, I would definitely recommend taking some AS Levels, and then A Levels... Not only does it open lots of doors career wise but the experience of going to college and meeting new people and trying new things is great and definitely not worth missing out on; just make sure you work hard another to continue the courses you want to! Hope this was helpful :)
AS level is the first part of A level, which is a level three qualification known as A-levels (after leaving school) You can take AS at 16, and progress onto A-level until the age of 18. These can be studied at a college or a sixth form. It is graded from A-F (like GCSE) but you can get U which means ungraded/unclassified - quite a few students do get these more at AS than GCSE due to the standard of work (coursework and exam) A good thing about AS is that you can choose subjects like GCSE of what your interests are or what could help your future career. But you are only only to choose three or four subjects, however you can always drop an AS when you take on board the second part of a-levels. I took an AS exam at college. I only took one AS level as I studied a BTEC National Diploma and part of the course you had to do another module - it was between rock school - which was music and you had to play an instrument (I can't play any instrument except the recorder/triangle!) so I had to do an AS in dance. However, the reason why I chose the AS was because AS is suppose to help you collect UCAS points (which is something you need to go onto university) And some universities expect high standard of UCAS points, so this could be difficult for students who are struggling to pass AS. The coursework is OK, but there is a lot of it so make sure you are on top of it! Keep a diary/planner. The exams are quite difficult, so make sure you revise in advance! Sadly it's like GCSE over again. When it came to my exam I was like 'Did we even cover this?' and that's why I got an Ungraded by the end of the exam. I think one of the reasons was that my teacher left and we were replaced by a supply teacher! The results for AS come out the same time as A-level results which is a week before GSCE results come out (this is usually mid August) However if you are on holiday the day the results arrive you must contact school/college and they will post them to you. Personally, don't do these exams if you hated the GSCE period because there is twice as more and much more hard work! However, if you are planning to go somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge university then you would have to take A-levels, but take them at a school, not a college! Because college you have more chance of failing than you will at a school, cause I know people who had to spend three years instead of two years at college doing these exams because they failed or they hated the work! And they ended doing one instead of four! You could fall into this pattern if you do AS at college, and more people tend to pass them in a sixth form!
What a joke. I am taking my A2 levels this year having taken my AS levels last year. In my opinion they are far far too easy and if done properly make the A2's a lot lot easier. For instance in my maths AS I scored 293 out of 300, before really stuggling in the A2 maths (I got a U and and E). However, because of the nature of the exams, I still got a B overall. Similarly in my French, by the the time I came to take my last module, I needed 3 marks to get an A overall. In addition, the re take aspect of a levels becomes silly after a while. I have some friends who retake modules 4 times, gradually building up their marks to an A. They should have one chance, and one chance only to achieve the A grade. In turn this makes universities have harder decisions, and possibly miss out the better candidates.
The AS level is the current exam system for the first year of college, which is usually done in batches of four subjects, which General Studies also occasionally taken. The AS level came about after the government 4 decided to split the current A level and do it over a period of two years of examination instead of the previous one. This has come under some debate, with many schools in the system deciding instead to take all of the exams in the final year, providing a greater level of knowledge for the earlier exams. The exam system has also come under scrutiny for critics claiming that it is too easy, with results improving year on year, but at the time of writing there are now a number of opposing exam systems, many of which private institutions are taking in a bid to provide a better level of education. The grading for the system is done with 300 points for the AS level and 300 points for the A2 exams. These mark that you receive on the exams themselves are turned into these standardised marking through a UMS marking which attempts to make them more uniform, enabling ease of comparison across subjects and years. To gain an A grade, you require 80%, which corresponds to 240 UMS marks, and for a B, 70%, with each lower mark requiring 10% less, or 30 UMS marks. These run down to E for a pass, with a fail and U also possible, although you will only gain an upgraded in exceptional circumstances. For the new AS levels, they have also introduced an A* grade, which requires 90% in the AS year and over 80% in the A2 year, or perhaps the other way around, but in any case 90% is the kind of level you should be aiming for to gain an A*. From my impressions of the AS level last year, I have found it not too challenging, although it was a step up from the material learnt at GCSE. Although this was perhaps because I was taking the subjects consider some of the hardest, Physics and Maths, although I would have said the latter was easy, but that may just be me. The level of material is usually given a context, trying to integrate your studies into a more work related background, which obviously helps for the courses undertaken at University. For the science subjects there is a focus on experimentation and your ability to understand and interpret data, which is a necessary skill for the work you would take on a science degree, which is propose to do. I would say though that from my impressions of the material on some university courses, a good deal of background reading and extra work s required to gain a better understanding of the subject at University and will help bridge the step up from A level to degree standard. Ultimat4ely though, the A level is designed to prepare you for university education, with the grades you gain from the subjects dictating the institutions that will accept you for their course. For many subjects such as Law, no specific subjects will be given, although some will be said as preferable, thus allowing potential students to pick and chose the subjects that they excel at in order to make getting a place at a high level institution easier. But many universities will not recognise certain subjects as suitable for the course, such as Media studies and most other studies subjects, unless they are the degree that you propose to study. All in all, the A level and the AS level in particular are a good exam system to a certain degree, as they do lend themselves to rigorous learning and understanding of certain areas. But I do feel that perhaps a level of depth present in other systems is missing, forcing students to choose a career path too soon. The Baccalaureate and other degrees do try and remedy this, but I have never been fully convinced by the material involved. And on the matter if whether or not they are easy, that is really rudimentary, and in the end standards for getting into university have risen accordingly, and as such you are likely to require a similar level of understanding and ability to read the top subjects at he top universities.
Having just completed one of two January AS exams (I found it to be lengthy, but not particularly taxing and am now nervously awaiting the harder of the two on Wednesday!) I feel compelled to find out just exactly what AS Levels are, as surprisingly, nobody ever really explained their significance. I am still unaware, and don't really understand how AS Levels account towards your final points tariff depending on which uni/course you take favour to. I also don't understand why two of my subjects require January modular exams and two don't, specifically as my year is described as the 'new A-Level' curriculum - surely the government would want to start off with some level of consistency concerning a new educational approach? Just for reference, the subjects I have taken are English Literature, English Language, History (Tudor) and Spanish. Any of your thoughts or comments would be much appreciated. Jess
I receive my A Level results tomorrow. I am deliberately not going to watch the news in the morning because I know it will be full of people saying how AS Levels are pointless and how A Levels are getting easier. Frankly I am stressed enough without having to hear all of this. I suppose it is hard for these people to accept that maybe the students and teachers are getting better? So sorry to rant but I am busy worrying about whether I have got the right grades and everyone else is busy telling me how I've got it easy! So here it goes, my review of AS and A levels. I did my GCSE's in 2006. I came out of them with good grades. 4 A's, 3 B's and one C. I also had a GNVQ in ICT. I was a sciency type girl with a love for animals so immediatly thought "Veterinary Science". This meant I needed A Levels in Biology and 2 other sciences. I hate Physics so I chose Biology, Chemistry and Maths. My AS year of Biology was absolutely great. I had a friend from school on the same course and made new friends there. Our class filled the room and contained 2 girls (who are now good friends) who were in their second year of college. One of them had taken english type subjects for their AS year and hated them. She started again with science and did Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. The other had failed he AS year at a different college and had come here to try again. Surely two good examples of why AS Levels are a good idea? They stayed on the course for the whole two years and loved it. In my AS year of Chemistry, my schoolfriend discovered she didn't like the subject after all. She stuck it out through the year and failed. In her second year she took A2 Biology and ICT but then did an AS in Psychology which she found more interesting than chemistry. If there was no such thing as an AS year then she would only have 2 A Levels. As it turns out she is looking at 2 A Levels and an AS. In my AS year of Maths many people started the course and got good AS grades but didn't like it. They will be finishing college with 2 A Levels and 2 AS Levels. Yet another reason why AS is such a good idea. In your AS year you do three exams for each subject. One for each subject is taken in January and the rest in June. You get your january results in March and your June results in August. The same then happens in your A2 year. Your final exam for each subject is synoptic. This means that you can be asked about anything from the past two years. I think this method is much better than all your exams after two years. Can you imagine how stressful that would be? I know that I did ok in my AS Levels because I've already had my results. I also know I did ok in January as I've had those results. This means I have resat the ones I was unhappy with and am only waiting for my June exams.
AS Levels are more important than you think. I am writing this review to reiterate how important these exams really are. By importance, I mean in terms of your overall A Level grade. People in my year at school had hopes of becoming doctors, vets, and lawyers. They thought however that you could breeze through this year with as little work as possible. They made a terrible mistake. Because they did not get high enough grades on AS papers in becameincredibly hard for them to increase their marks in harder papers next year in the A Level exams. AS Levels are 50 % of your overall A level grade. I worked very hard in my AS year, and earned 4 A grades. Because of this, I need a grade 'C' on most of my papers at A level to get the grades I need to go onto University. A levels are worked out through UMS scores. Each subject is examined out of 600 UMS marks, 300UMS for the subject in AS and 300 at A level final year. These numbers are split into exams and corusework over the year. The higher you get at AS in the 'EASIER' exams, the easier the second year will be. I have done a lot less work this year and it has made me a calmer person knowing that you dont have to do as well as others in my final year. However, remember that you still must work to get decent grades at A level also. But with harder papers known as Synoptics, it is much harder to attain the grade you will want. You must do well in the AS papers that are remotely easier than A level papers. This information is vital for any person taking AS Levels. This review is a warning to all those students who start their AS levels in the coming year. Work your asses off otehrwise you will be killing yourself a year later in your exams. My friends became completely tied down and many of them think that they wont get the grades they need to get to university because of how bad they did at AS level. People just dont realise that they are 50% of your mark. On an AS Subject and A level - 240/300 UMS = A grade 210/300 UMS = A grade On the AS papers it is easier than you know to get an 'A' grade. A paper has raw marks that are then calculated into UMS marks. For example, you can get 70% of your paper right and still get 120/120 UMS marks on that paper you took. This is why the nation is saying that exams are getting easier. However, this is what people dont notice. Next year it will be harder to et raw marks. You dont need full marks on a paper to get full UMS marks. Take the advantage and do as best as you can at AS level. Slack off during the GCSE holidays. You deserve it. However, for parents who haev children that are carrying on into sixth form or going to college, you must reiterate the importance of these exams. Any one can get an A in these papers. I was a B/C student when I was younger. When I fiugred out the system though it made me smarter and wiser. These grades are possible. If you do well at AS levels, then you should have a great chance, everyone of getting 3 B's on their subjects. I promise this to you. This can mean a better university with more subject choice, and a better future. (Well I hope so.) AS Levels have been rated by me as 5 stars. Not because I like them. I hate revising and working. They are 5 star for importance, and this is what people must realise and I hope I have made at least 1 person realise their importance going into sixth form this coming school year. Good luck this year to you guys/girls and parents this is of great importance to you. You have to make your kids realise its importance as a whole concerning the entire A levels. Jelboy
The history... For those of you outside education, AS Levels were introduced as part of the government's Curriculum 2000 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and was the most radical development in the post-16 curriculum since the introduction of A levels in 1951. The aim.. To promote a breadth of choice for young people. Instead of the traditional path of 3 A levels, nearly always in a combination of related subjects (i.e. 3 sciences), students were to be given the choice of studying more subjects in different permutations. How...? Well, students would be encouraged to study 4 subjects in year 12 (the lower sixth) and then 3 in year 13. The idea was that these need not be the subjects studied the previous year - a one year course would be an AS Level and a two year course an A2 level, and a student could leave school with a mix of the two. So you could do Maths, English, French and Economics one year and then Maths, English, German the next year and leave with 2 x A2 and 3 x AS. Anyone still awake? You explain this to sixth formers worried about getting into uni!!! The reality... Most students in my experience are back where they would have been anyway, doing the same three subjects for two years (plus often General Studies). Why? Because.. - They find it hard to cope with 4 subjects in year 12, especially if they're expected to do project work or coursework - In lots of subjects it's really difficult to get to the required standard in year in order to do AS - I teach German and French and we've had real problems and I know Maths have. If you do badly in your AS year, you can resit the next year so most students just carry on and retake alongside their A level studies and do better the next year! In fact lots of schools have found ways around the problem. Some don't enter candidates for AS at all, and they do all the exams at the end of yr 13. And lots more schools are doing the IB (International Baccalaureate) which is a much wider diploma exam based on the continental model. My opinion... In my opinion this system is entirely exam driven. I used to spend yr12 instilling a love of language in my students, showing them German films, reading novels together. And now? Now lesson one is the requirements of the exam and that is at the forefront all the way through, because they've got mocks in the January of their yr12 year! It's taken all the fun out of it and made some subjects harder than others. My students are constantly telling me that humanities are easier because they've already covered some of the material at GCSE for example. My solution... The government has ignored Tomlinson's suggestion to have a diploma exam and I think they're wrong. We need a wide post 16 curriculum that makes every student study a wide range of subjects properly before they go on to university, like other successful European countries do, and in my opinion that should include a foreign language.
AS levels. They were introduced to try and make our educational lives better and I guess I see the governments point. The idea was to try and get a broader A level education by taking 4 or even 5 AS levels in year 12 then dropping down to 3 or 4 in year 13. When I started my AS levels in September 2000, I was one of the guinea pigs from the first year of this new system. All the way through our school lives our year group had been the guinea pig year. I started sixth form at my high school after a long summer relaxing (and working in a cafe!) after the GCSE's which I gained 5 As and 6 Bs. I had decided to take AS levels in English Literature, French, Geography and Music and it all started well. But then things began to go wrong..... I attended 2 lessons of English Lit and thought 'No way can I do this for 1 year never mind 2', so I dropped the subject and decided to take up a night class in English Language which was not available through the school. The school had problems with recruiting language teachers so my French started badly as instead of the two teachers we were meant to have, we had one so we only had half the amount of lessons. Eventually, a new teacher did arrive but by this time we were so used to just not working, we found it hard to get back into the routine of doing work. I'm not exactly sure what the problem was but the new French teacher and I grew to really really dislike each other and this continued throughout the year. The Geography and the Music however were great. (Despite the fact that when we went on the Geography field trip, the mini-bus I was on broke down and we were stuck in a tiny village for about 6 hours until another bus could come back for us!) I found all of the work very hard as the jump between GCSE and AS level was so great even though the AS levels, we were told, were designed to be an intermediate step between GCSE and A level. I also decided in about October/ November, that I wanted to take up Psychology which I did and because I found it interesting I managed to catch up with all the work that I had missed quite quickly. So.... just to recap. I started taking English Lit, Geog, Music and French and by this point was now doing English Lang, Geog, Music, French and Psychology. Phew.... This was alot to take but it didn't feel that much because the English Language wasn't done during the day at school. I only realised just how much I had taken on when I received my exam timetable for the AS exams. It was then that I started to panic. I got my results in August of 2001 and I hadn't done that well compared to my GCSE's (which, looking back wasn't really suprising considering everything I was doing) getting a C, 3 Ds and an E. I made the decision to repeat year 12 and start again. This was a hard decision to make and it took alot of guts to drop back a year but still stay in the same sixth form. I decided to drop French, do English Language at school (which was available this time), and stay in my old classes for Psychology and Music. The second time round went so much better and I ended up getting C's for everything apart from Geography in which I got a high D and I was so happy I was bouncing around the school hall for ages driving everyone mad! :) I am now in year 13 (FINALLY!!) and doing full A levels in Psychology, Geography, and English Lang plus I have now completed my Music A level. This year, it's not so much the exams I am getting stressed about but the coursework as there is just so much of it and its starting to all pile up on top of me! AGH! Ah well, that's my opinions of AS and A2 levels anyway, and I know there were people who made it through the 2 years of the new sixth form system whithout any problems at all and are now at top universities but I sure wasn't one of them!
Well, here I am to argue my case, and having just taken AS levels the thoughts are fresh in my mind, along with the strong desire to beat whoever's idea this was' head against a lamppost. WHAT ARE THEY, ANYWAY? AS levels are a set of exams taken at the end of year 12, and, whilst unrecognised by many organisations, are supposedly the equivalent of half an A-level, so that one or more can be dropped before studying A-levels, reducing the work strain throughout year 13. In those subjects continued into year 13, AS results count for half your A level results. ADVANTAGES Ummmm... Oh, ok, I got one!They do take some of the strain off year 13 exams, and also give universities a better idea of your performances in exams...GCSE results are often not a true reflection of this. DISADVANTAGES The workload is much larger than you would expect. Many subjects require coursework, which is time-consuming, and teachers really do put the pressure on. This doesn't even stop after the exams...our school was back the DAY AFTER the last exam to begin studying A levels. A social life, whilst possible, will most likely lower your chances of good results. Even if you do get good results, these can be dragged down with next year's results. Plus, it is difficult to choose which subjects to continue with, as AS and A levels syllabuses (or syllabi?) are in themselves very different. CONCLUSION Perhaps the whole scheme shouldn't be done away with, we could keep a modified version, but in the end this was introduced where it wasn't needed.
AS levels replace the traditional A-level path which is taken optionally after GCSE, although other qualifications such as NVQ’s are available as well. The idea of the AS level is to break the whole two year course into sections and as you complete the first year you receive half a qualification know as an AS and after the second year a full A-Level. The AS is worth exactly half of an A-level but it is meant to be slightly easier than the first year, but still increasing the difficulty from the previous GCSE’s. The government set up the scheme claiming that the old A-level had become too easy, as teachers had started to specialise in teaching students to pass the exams and not academic knowledge. They thus created a new exam scheme with new papers and questions to keep academic qualifications of a high standard. The exam boards themselves did not start this idea however. The exam boards thus prepared for the new exam schemes and sent out practice papers to schools showing a rough guideline to students and teachers of what to expect in the exam halls. This meant that students could practice their exam technique although the exams did show a few surprises. The course itself recommended that students originally take 4 subjects for the first year and after the second year drop one subject which would have an AS level qualification and then carry on to complete three A-levels. However the number of subjects taken per student does vary, some might only take three AS while others may take four complete A-levels not dropping one after the first year; these all depend on academic standards. The exams are split and divided over the two years, these are known as modules. This means that after studying a subject you sit an exam for it straight away while it is fresh in your mind and after that you can forget all the knowledge and take on a new module. This is the opposite to the GCSE system where students study for two years and then sit a ll their exams over the space of one and half months. This is all the information I knew before I started my AS levels in September. I knew that they were still temporary and that I was in fact the second guinea pig to go through the course. The first year of students who had taken the course had seemed to do well but there were still many criticisms over the system. There were many flaws on the dates of exams and I had read that one girl had eight exams in one, which is outrageous. There is no way that someone can perform to their full potential under that many exams. Here is my inside view. After getting my GCSE results (1A* 3A 6B, the minim entry to A-Level is 5C) I went to school and started my four new subjects, Business Studies, History, Religious Education and English Literature. I was informed that I would have two exams in January and in the first term would have to complete one piece of coursework. This seemed fine as the two exams for history and business studies would reduce my workload in the summer term, as would the English coursework. I found the work extremely difficult, as the jump for GCSE to A-Level is believed to be greater than that for A-Level to Degree. My first English Literature essay I got back, which I thought was good, had a D grade on it, which was a big shock to me. I had to build up a new technique and learn new skills and I had to do it quickly because only four months later I would be sitting the first exams. The great thing with AS levels is unlike GCSE you can re-sit an exam once after getting your results if they are not what you believe to be your full potential. This did relieve a little bit of the pressure for me over the Christmas build up. The teachers didn’t have much experience with the course and the practice questions were few, this made it hard to know what I needed to know for the exam and what I didn’t. It got to January and I sat my Business Studies exam, w hich I later found out I got a C in, 2 marks off a B. I kept the grade hoping that I would do better in my next exams and pick up my grades to a B. I then sat my history exam that even the teacher was shocked over the paper. The question which was multiple choice was one poorly phrased and the second section was on a very basic topic with very little to write about for a whole exam, I scraped a D attempting to understand the first trick question and my teacher submitted a complaint to the exam board. Half the class re-sat the exam, which cost £9 that the school did not pay. It was then back to the classroom to study more for my summer exams. The pressure was very great and I found myself feeling less motivated the nearer the exams got. Unlike GCSE there was no long holiday reward after the exams, we had to return to the classroom to prepare for the next exams in January and to do coursework. Teachers and students were all becoming very stressed and the talk of leaving 6th form college increased. The timetables were released and a few people found they had two exams on at the same time, which is impossible. The exams were national and so could not be changed to another day. Girl in my school had to leave her eight-hour art exam to go to sit an hour history exam and then return to her art exam to finish an hour later than the other students. A friend of mine also had two exams at one time but she couldn’t leave one of her exams to sit the other so she sat her law exam in the morning and then was supervised until the afternoon by an examiner so she couldn’t talk to other students until she could sit her biology paper. Exams are stressful enough without being supervised by a stranger for a period to time and not taking to your friends. Some of my subjects were all being examined in the same day. A whole year of religious education was being sat in one morning over two hours while my English, apart from the coursework, was three books and three hours straight in another morning. I’m waiting for my results now that come out August 15th. Until then I’m back at school learning next years work, no holidays for me to recover from the immense pressure I’ve just gone through. My results hopefully will reflect my abilities and not the awful AS levels. Sara
The new AS levels system really is a step in the wrong direction. Its not that they're particularly hard or even that there's too much work for them, its just that its another exam year when really we could do without them. I took As levels last year (the year they came out) and was seriously unimpressed. WHAT EXACTLY IS THE NEW SYSTEM WITH AS LEVELS? AS levels themselves have actually been present for many, many years now. The reason why there has been so much controversy over them is that the government last made them compulsory for all students. The government guidelines effectively say that you should do 4 AS levels in the Lower Sixth year and then drop one subject and carry on with subjects to A - level standard in the second year. WHY DO I OBJECT? This means that we now have some GCSE's at the end of the 4th form(for the more intelligent people), more at the end of the 5th form, AS levels at the end of the lower 6th and then A-levels at the end of the U6th. That's 3 exam years in a row with no option of a breather between them. Subjects at school should be interesting, thats definite. The old system where you did relatively little in the lower 6th was much better because it allowed you to branch out for some of the year, exploiting interests away from the syllabus. This is what I'd call a good education. As it is, we are forced to follow the strict and dull aspects of an outdated syllabus (more so in some subjects than others) rather than to study the areas of a subject that interest us. Take Latin and Greek for example (I know not many people do these but it's the same principle for the other subjects); we are given two set books for each subject and have to be able to effectively memorise vast chunks of English so that we can translate the Latin or Greek in an exam. The lower 6th used to read other authors and poets that interested them and could choose what to do. This would have been so much more interesting. As it is, I am spoonfed pre-selected passages from a pre-selected play by a pre-selected author and expected to be able to translate any bit of it in the summer exams. This is not an interesting education! There is also therefore a lot more learning to be done since I have different plays/books each year. The old system meant that I would have only really had to look at the prescribed A-level books at the end of the summer term in the lower 6th, leaving me almost a year to do what I wanted. The other seriously annoying thing is that they give you a vocab list for AS levels and then a completely different one for A-levels so that you have to learn many more words over the two years. You also get more coursework, which really can take its toll. THE ADVANTAGES OF THE NEW SYSTEM One point of argument is that it makes you work harder in the lower 6th and takes some strain off the upper 6th. The problem with the old system was that the lower 6th was seen to be a wasted year because people were not considered to be working very hard. This was probably true, but I think you deserve a break from exams after GCSE's and before the A-level course really begins. At least people were taking an active interest in their chosen subjects and actually enjoying the freedom they had to read around it. As for taking the strain off the upper 6th - this is complete rubbish. I have almost as much to learn in one year than they used to have to learn in two! Where's the justice in that? A valid argument is that universities can get a reasonable idea of how you are likely to do in your A-levels. Before, all they had to go on is predictions and these weren't as accurate a measure as AS level grades are. I accept this argument but I don't think it even nearly outweighs all the disadvantages of the new system (especially if you're havin g a gap year or not going to university). Another reasonable argument is that you can resit AS modules in the A-level year. This is a good argument but doing this really putsw more strain on the A-level year and is not something I would advise. With the old system you only really got one chance, but then again you did have two years to prepare for one set of exams. OVERALL Overall, AS levels have been a bad idea - just look at all the negative response. I am writing having experienced them first hand and having suffered at the hands of our incompetent government once again!
I have just recently found this website, and was upset to see that there are quite a few bad feelings floating about in relation to the AS levels. I therefore felt it my duty to correct this situation, and balance out the scales by writing another supportive opinion. I agree with the view that our year group seem to have borne the brunt of government 'experiments' with regards to education - SAT's, New GCSE's and now the new AS/A2 Advanced GCE system. But, remember that in elections, the government are always being told they aren't concentrating on education enough, so they change the system a bit, and we moan all the more. For them it is a lose-lose situation. That is, if we all follow the crowd, and don't actually assess the situation fully. I must start off by saying that of subjects I take (Chemistry, Physics, Maths, RE, General Studies and Key Skills), the first 2 were always 'modular' subjects at our school. Modular, if you are not aware, means that you learn modules through the 2 years, and take exams in the modules you have learned in your desired examination period. Under the old system, modules had to initially be learned quickly, as the first exams were in NOVEMBER of the first year. Yes, that is 2 month earlier than with the present system. This meant that students had to learn their stuff really quickly, and an even greater of students needed to retake modules. Under today's process, we have longer to learn the stuff, and still have the opportunity to retake modules if we wish. In other subjects, under the old method, students had the chance to chill out in their first year. They could get an almost full time job, bum around at school, and party all night each and every night. By the start of the next year, or in worse cases, after Christmas the second year, they would suddenly realise that they had exams to do in June, and they had better get in gear and learn something. They th en had to learn all the stuff they were being taught, and revise (if they had any notes) and learn outside of school all of the stuff they had ignored in the previous year. This was not good. Cramming is not good when done on a large scale. Under today's method, you get 3 modules per subject per year (in most subjects). Usually, one of these modules is assessed either by coursework or by examination in January. That means each subject has 1 full term (the autumn term is the longest) to learn 1 module. In many cases, if all the students learn efficiently, this can be finished by the start of the second half of the autumn term. Indeed, in our school, a number of students have finished 2 modules in the first term, been examined in them, and now have more free time on their hands. The problem with this is that there is a bit more to learn than in the old method, but there IS more time to learn it, so there should be no problem. I think the other problem is really with the students. Some students do not cope with pressure well. If this is so, then 2 sets of exams each year may cause more stress than usual, reducing the ability to perform their best. The other, main problem, which is sometimes (from observed experience) covered up by people blaming 'stress', is the lifestyles of students. Taking an A level (AS and A2) IS a full time job. No doubt about it. You are required to work hard, for periods longer than 9-5, 5 days a week, with reduced hours at the weekend. This taken on board, it is no surprise that those who decide to work outside of school are going to struggle more. Working a little at the weekend is OK, but evening work is a BIG no no. If you do so, you will not be able to perform efficiently. Also, social activities should be watched, but this is an essential part of student life. If you have a job, then certainly socialising is not a thing to do. So, students should choose. Job or social life? A social life being going out with mates often, a party at the weekend here and there, but certainly not boozing on week nights. I may sound like an old man (which I'm not!), but now we are 6th form students, we have responsibilities, and out conduct outside of school is part of that. I find that the people at school who moan the most at school are the ones who have the extra jobs, who tend to not sleep every night due to work/homework/social life, and who skive off school most often. These lazy bums complain because they are not responsible enough to organise their time so that when exams come, they are ready for them. They are the ones that say 'We don't have enough time to learn all this', but the ones who moan after the June exams in the first year because they have to start learning the next modules for January. Well, Duh? Under the much-praised 'perfect' old system, you had no leave at all in the first year. Yes, news is, people, AS levels are not as bad as some students are making them out to be. The new name and new style is so obviously new that people have taken this out and blamed it for the 'harder than ever' A levels, and the 'unacceptable' work loads. You would then retaliate 'But the government has admitted that it is a proverbial c*** up', but hang about. Remember what they are. They are POLITICIANS. They WANT YOUR VOTE. Trying to get students (and their parents') votes would be a big asset. So they conform to the apparent majority, just to PLEASE US. If we can't see through that, then we are not proper students - questioning everything in an unbiased way. Saying that may make me look hypocritical, as I seem to be perfectly biased. People reading this will probably be thinking 'Private School boffin' or 'this lads must be a loner'. But, I can confirm that I have friends, from all sorts of social backgrounds (I hold no bias to what sort of culture I han g out with, be it black, white, townie or skater), and I am from a 'normal' state school. I did not pass my 12+ (yes, 12+, coz that's what we had in Bucks when I was in year 7), so I am not a grammar school or private school kid. I go to my village school. And I am not the only person who shares my views. I may be the only one who cares about it quite a much, but that is because I care about the strangest things. I have to admit, the workload is higher slightly, and I guess this is because you have the chance to get a proper qualification after the first year. The good thing about this is that those bums who do nothing all year can do their hardest at the end of the first year, get some grade, then leave with 3 AS levels. So it wasn't a waste of time. Also, if you start doing 4 AS levels, you can drop one after the first year, continue with the other 3, and redo some of the worst bits of the one you have dropped. I did a bad bit of coursework for my RE, and as a result, I dropped it after the first year, and after these January exams, I will do another piece, so I can try and reclaim a better grade by the end of the year, without having the pressure to learn all the new stuff for it as well. I would finally like to comment on the myth of students 'having' to take more courses than in the old system. Who is making you do anything? I had the chance to do up to 5 A levels. I chose to do 3.5 (3 A2 and 1 AS). Others did 2, most did 3, along with General studies and key skills (which aren't really worth much, and add no extra work time/stress, as they are really general knowledge, GCSE things, which aren't really looked at by unis. Some jobs like them, to show you can work quite well in different areas, outside your specalism). So please. Step outside the situation. Look at what is REALLY happening. The AS levels are not as bad as they are made out to be. They are just a good test of time manageme nt. If they are really that bad, then my answer is GET A JOB!!!
This opinion was sent to the Education department. What I got back was an automated response with quotes praising AS levels. Grr. ---------------- Many students of my age have complained about being made the ‘guinea-pigs’ by the government time and time over when regarding our Education. Common examples that are mentioned include being the first pupils to sit SAT tests at 14, a non-calculator paper in GCSE Maths, and of course being the first year to have to undergo the new AS Level system. However, the truth was that having SAT tests at 14 did not require a great amount of work, and results of these tests may have determined sets for GCSE, but were generally not highly significant. The non-calculator paper in GCSE Maths was not considered as highly taxing, and only accounted for a fraction of the overall grade. However, it is the AS Level system that we have had to have undergone this year that can clearly produce a massive impact on one’s future, being worth 50% of the A Level grade and what will be looked at by universities as a good indication of what one can achieve at A Level. Due to that reason, I find that it is absolutely ludicrous that 17-year old students been subjected to what can arguably be dubbed as the great disaster of the British education system in recent years, a system resulting in examination chaos, and a great deal of unfairness for students, teachers and the examiners. By this point many in my position may certainly be disagreeing with me – look at the AS Guru Message Boards and see numerous messages, unsurprisingly the vast majority from private schools, complaining that the AS Levels are simply “far too easy” and fail to provide them with a challenge. Whilst some celebrate the end of the AS Levels knowing they found them straightforward, the rest of students shall be highly irate, knowing that they may be going from A/A* grades at GCSE to Us at AS in the same subject (unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration of reality). Due to this the AS system has substantially widened the gap between the best-performing schools and, as the government dub, “failing schools”. So how, you may ask, is it possible for there to be such a great variation in performance at AS Level? Why have some had no problems adjusting to the new system whilst others have struggled to cope with the challenges they have been faced? There are a great variety of factors that contribute to the great variations that shall be mentioned… * Timetabling * Cheating * Key Skills * Coursework * GNVQ * Subject Variation --- T I M E T A B L I N G ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was mentioned on the news about some pupils having to face sitting up to 5 examinations in a single day, with many being forced to stay overnight at teacher’s accommodation the day before their examinations to prevent cheating. Well I was unfortunate to suffer having an exam on Tuesday afternoon, followed by FOUR examinations the next day, with another exam the next morning. Surely the examining board cannot seriously expect pupils to be working to their full potential under such conditions. Having had two Geography exams in the morning, I had to sit another two Literature exams that afternoon. There is a limit to how much mental capacity one has – how much they are able to remember for one day of examinations. It was challenging to write another 12 or so pages of Literature in the afternoon following the two morning exams. And also coming home at 5pm for an exam the next day… The stress levels for many may certainly have been abnormal due to such conditions. However, the examiners are unlikely to know what some students were subjected to and will treat them the same way as another who may have had a few days to revise for a single exam, who would obviously be more relaxed and confident. With most pupils with 4 subjects taking around 10 exams, scheduling 5 in a day is purely ludicrous. Who designed the timetables?! The main problem was concentrating all the exams into a short 2-week period, resulting in some students being subjected to a burst of exams in a couple of days followed by many days to revise mainly a single module. Whilst people like myself had such problems, others with the luck of a more sensible timetable had a massive advantage. A well distributed timetable meant students were able to effectively manage their time and be more relaxed resulting in greater exam performance. Some students find it quite unjust that the likes of Euan Blair shall not be sitting the AS Levels. Well just consider how many exams he shall have next year – 20 exams in 2 or 3 weeks? --- C H E A T I N G ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The increased levels of stress for many pupils may have been a main cause for the numerous cases of cheating that did occur. Staying at a teacher’s home may have been uncomfortable, but surely this allowed cheating? Whispering a mobile call to a friend at midnight when in bed could have been possible. And whilst many of students in our Maths class came out of the Pure 2 examination completely bewildered and astonished at its difficulty, I could just imagine pupils from the anonymous London schools (Haberdasher’s, <cough>) saying “Well, that was £400 well spent!”. It is rather pathetic, in my opinion, that the students who’s parents wealth means that they are able to attend the top schools in the country and get the best education, still seem the need to have to cheat. And whilst there was massive media criticism about how some Maths students would be sitting papers they had already seen, nobody batted an eyelid about the Key Skills examinations. Our IT paper does not have a strict date – it must have been done between 25th June and 6th July. Look at the AS Guru Message Boards and see a certain Mr Griffiths enquiring to what is on the test. Knowing what is on the Key Skills exam in advance is the difference between a Pass and a Fail… --- K E Y S K I L L S ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Key Skills was initially considered as an integral part of the new AS system, being worth the equivalent of a Grade A AS Level and the examining boards provided students with booklets mentioning how prestigious universities would value the qualification. However, a few months into the exams, when it was clear that these were the greatest shambles of the system, it was found that they would no longer be considered as useful. It is hardly surprising that Key Skills was considered as a shambles by headteachers across the country… Take the Communications exam our school took in February, where the Key Skills Coordinator told pupils words to the effect of “We have no idea what is on the paper, so just try your best”. No wonder out of 31 students there were 4 passes and 27 failures. Failures including Grade A English GCSE pupils. But it was certainly not the teachers fault – being provided with a tiny booklet from the examining board does not help. As for our IT exam yesterday? A practical computer exam. Not fair to many students who’s computers crashed half way through! And having the database set to American format (e.g. 7/3/01 for 3rd July) was not exactly helpful when the question specifically stated the required format. Sitting there for ages waiting for the printers to work also was not helpful. So whilst some pupils may have spent the entire year spending hours working on the Key Skills Qualification, they may now fail due to reasons not their own fault, or even if they do pass, all this hard work may not be valued if the qualification is dis missed. --- C O U R S E W O R K ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I find that the variations between subjects in coursework is the greatest contributor to the unfairness involved in the AS Levels. At GCSE, subjects I took such as Literature and Geography had coursework as an integral part of the course, worth around 30%. Now at AS Level, there is such a massive variation in coursework between different boards (and school decisions) that it can heavily vary the grades a pupil gets. Take English Literature. Most schools get 30% coursework at AS Level, our school… 0%. 100% exam. I met a girl from a London private school, who boasted about how her teachers kept giving back their coursework essays until they were all at Grade A standard. Unfair! With a good mark in coursework, you only need 70% in the exam to get a Grade A at AS (as opposed to 80%). And people get to do this coursework around February, when there is not too much work to do so it is easy to manage the time to produce coursework. Without coursework, on the other hand, you end up with yet another exam in the limited 2-week period, piling on yet more pressure and stress. EdExcel Geography = 40% coursework at AS. Doing well in coursework means needing a Grade C in the exam to get a Grade A overall. Compare this with AQA Geography – 0% Coursework. The worst example of coursework potentially over-inflating the grade is in AQA Biology. 30% is coursework and it is possible for Grade D/E pupils to get a mark of over 90% - doing well in the coursework does not require grade intellectual ability, but just having to work hard, and as said you do this coursework around February when there is usually little pressure to complete a lot of homework in other subjects. Having done well in the coursework, getting D grades in the exams will result in getting a Grade B overall. Scandalous. --- G N V Q s ~~~~~~~~ Students who opted to take GNVQ subjects have been some of the greatest sufferers of the new system. Whilst AS Level examinations attempt to test students at the appropriate level (between GCSE and A), GNVQ modules are tested at the same A Level standard all the way through. No wonder in January 2001, where pupils only months into their GNVQ subjects had to sit exams, the overall failure rate was 75% (compare to 16% for typical old A Level subjects). And the percentage of students getting GNVQ Distinction-level marks will be extremely low, considering that the January module consisted of some content pupils would have normally looked at later in the course. --- SUBJECT VARIATION ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Quite arguably, as far as the universities are concerned, at AS Level an A is an A, a B is a B… in other words regardless of the subjects taken, a grade A will be equally valued whether the subject was Maths, IT, Economics… Unfortunately there is a massive variation in difficulty of subjects, mainly because there were errors of judgement. As previously stated GNVQs are immensely difficult at AS Level stage. Maths is also very taxing as all modules are the same standard whether at AS or A Level. This shall be the subject, I anticipate, where two thirds of our competent class shall get grade Us in due to the unpredictable step up from GCSE. Whilst such subjects are almost over-challenging, I find subjects such as English Literature and the first modules of Chemistry and Geography to not be too great a step-up from GCSE. --- CONCLUSION ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I find that the AS Level concept in general is good – it enables students not to have immense pressure in the second year. However it is clearly evident that being the first year, there is a bizarre amount of errors of judgement, chaos etc. There shall now be tweaking to make the AS Levels more justified and fair f or all students – over the next years teachers shall gain more experience and the universities shall know how to consider the qualifications. Hardly fair for our year though, is it? ******************** UPDATE - AUGUST 2001 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I achieved grades AABB, which should be sufficient for my university choices, but barely impressive compared to a 9A* GCSE result. 1.7% off an A in 2 subjects! However many other students were not so lucky... in a class of 17, 10 got a U in Maths. Also check out the AQA website and see how much they mess about with the grades - achieving 60% in Geography module 1 gave you a "scaled" UMS mark of 80% (Grade A). In other subjects 85% was needed for an A. Thankyou very much, to those involved, for ruining the future of many so-called "young people".