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Unifrog predicting A level grades from limited information

(26 Posts)
jammambo Fri 08-Nov-19 19:02:26

Our school uses Unifrog which is a tool for supporting the transition from school to university. It has lits of features - including the ability to select a shortlist of university courses. To do this you select your GCSE performance from a drop-down box with the options "straight 9s", "mainly 8s and 9s", "straight 7s and 8s", "mainly 7s 8s a few 6s", etc. Then there is another box to say whether you are doing A Level, IB, BTEC. After that you say what subject(s) you want to do at uni. The tool finds all the courses that broadly match, and divides them into 3 columns labelled Aspirational, Solid and Safe. Courses that they consider to be out of your range are labelled with a red exclamation mark (which doesn't stop you selecting them for your shortlist but they will be clearly labelled as "out of range" if you do, so it's a bit of a psychological barrier).

It's a good concept, but it's ruined by the fact that they use the GCSE performance (and nothing else) to predict your A Level grades and seem to make a hash of it. For example, if you select a GCSE performance of "mainly 8s and 9s" all of the most aspirational university courses that require A* A* A are labelled as out of range. The only way to bring them back into range is to select "straight 9s" for GCSE. I know you have to be bright to get onto one of those courses, but very few students get straight 9s and I'm pretty sure getting a few 8s is no barrier to getting top A Level grades.

It seems so unnecessary. Why not just let the students predict their own A Level performance instead, or enter the predicted grades their teachers have given them?

I did email the company, and they said it was designed in consultation with schools etc etc. Maybe it was designed for the old A,B,C grades and they've done some crude upgrade that translates Straight As into Straight 9s, but if so I'm surprised schools aren't complaining about it.

If your school uses Unifrog, maybe take a look and see if you have the same issue.

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Piggywaspushed Fri 08-Nov-19 19:24:58

My DS used Unifrog last year and my school uses this. I recognise the aspirational/ solid thing, which I thought was in itself a bit flawed. But I have not seen the bit you describe with the GCSE grades, oddly.

Piggywaspushed Fri 08-Nov-19 19:26:41

So, I have just signed in to start a university shortlist and it asks me to put in my best likely A Level grades.

LIZS Fri 08-Nov-19 19:31:02

Dd used unifrog last year. Personally thought it was a bit pointless and dumbed down the process but personal statement and reference was done via it. She had already done much research before it was introduced so did not really bother with the shortlist element and think created her own and just manipulated it.

jammambo Fri 08-Nov-19 22:05:07

I have just signed in to start a university shortlist and it asks me to put in my best likely A Level grades

Thanks Piggy - I've found that bit now, but you only get to it if you follow the link in this prompt: "If you've already done your GCSEs, use our Key Stage 5 calculator". It then lets you put projected A Level grades in, which is good. But if you haven't done GCSEs yet (like my DC), you don't follow that link, so it just predicts the grades from your GCSEs instead.

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jammambo Fri 08-Nov-19 22:07:51

p.s. This is what it looks like. We just clicked 'Next' from here rather than following the calculator link.

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Piggywaspushed Fri 08-Nov-19 22:14:42

Right easily solved. Just pretend!

jammambo Fri 08-Nov-19 22:23:38

Right easily solved. Just pretend!
Yeah, now I know that workaround exists we'll use it, but there will be lots of Y11 kids who will do as we did and follow the logical path through the screens, getting a load of out-of-range courses without ever realising why.

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Piggywaspushed Sat 09-Nov-19 07:39:43

I think the rest of the site, like the bit about which degree and what job is more suited to pre sixth form. Some of that is quite good. My DS in year 11 has looked at it once or twice but, to be honest , I don't think most students know what degree they actually want to take until year 13, if then!

Piggywaspushed Sat 09-Nov-19 07:42:29

By the way, I just went back on, and definitely do not get any chance tp put in GCSE grades! It must be a specific package your school has bought?

ChloeDecker Sat 09-Nov-19 07:52:32

If your school uses Unifrog, maybe take a look and see if you have the same issue.

We don’t use Unifrog in our school because we can’t afford it.

Sounds like they are spinning you BS about the criteria that they use. I agree with you that that sounds very inaccurate. Much better to have real conversations about these important decisions.

Pleased we can’t afford it now!

Tvstar Sat 09-Nov-19 23:44:43

I think dcs school use Alps

Hoghgyni Sun 10-Nov-19 00:06:24

Do year 11 kids even worry about aspirational or solid & safe courses? Most of my DD's year 13 chums are still dithering about which courses and universities to put down as they still have 2 months to apply. It strikes me as the sort of tool year 11s are told to play with in tutor group to fill a bit of time & give them an idea of which A levels will open doors for them. I wouldn't fret about it at this stage. They will change their minds a dozen times before their UCAS deadline and may even decide that uni isn't for them and an apprenticeship will give better career prospects.

Alsioma Sun 10-Nov-19 00:59:00

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 10-Nov-19 01:11:57

* For example, if you select a GCSE performance of "mainly 8s and 9s" all of the most aspirational university courses that require A* starA star A are labelled as out of range. The only way to bring them back into range is to select "straight 9s" for GCSE. I know you have to be bright to get onto one of those courses, but very few students get straight 9s and I'm pretty sure getting a few 8s is no barrier to getting top A Level grades.

Sound seriously misleading. The top courses requiring two Astars and an A are mostly STEM and they really only care about top grades in the relevant subjects, which don't in any way require good grades in all other subjects.

Piggywaspushed Sun 10-Nov-19 07:44:39

Unifrog has a lot of flaws that it is up to the school to counteract and I reckon many won't.

For example, although it harvests data of students such as school and postcode, it does not reflect the possibility of contextual offers. Since the stats show many Pupil Premium students are either put off uni altogether or lack aspiration, Unifrog could be a useful tool for this : and , again, it does not take this into account. They don't even gather that data. In fact, when my school did its training, I asked the --12 year old--trainer about this, and he had never heard of contextual offers!

jammambo Sun 10-Nov-19 07:53:12

It strikes me as the sort of tool year 11s are told to play with in tutor group to fill a bit of time & give them an idea of which A levels will open doors for them

Whatever the context, they should never be told that doors are closed to them when they're not.

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Hoghgyni Sun 10-Nov-19 08:12:27

.... Unless you have dreams of becoming a doctor and struggle to get your GCSEs because you're not very bright or wish to be a pilot and are visually impaired. You know that sometimes doors are closed. It's nobodies fault, they just are.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 10-Nov-19 08:43:01

Sure, totally unrealistic dreams are better nipped in the bud and achievable ambitions encouraged. But labelling the 'top' uni courses as all out of range is simply wrong, and runs counter to what the unis involves are trying to do in terms of broadening access.
I'm not usually a suspicious person but I'd almost be wondering whether someone in this organisation has an agenda. Maybe it's just ignorance .... not great for anything related to education either.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 10-Nov-19 08:48:00

Re ALPs - DDs school did use it for initial A level predictions, but they made it clear that it just gives a sort of baseline which isn't accurate. It's of some statistical use to the school but not so much for the individual pupils, I think. DDs alps predictions were considerably lower than her later predictions based on how she was doing in her chosen A levels, and the final grades.

jammambo Sun 10-Nov-19 09:11:46

Hoghgyni I've no problem with students being told doors are closed if its true, but not if its false.

Errol I think its a combination of cock-up and commercial interests, mitigated by disclaimers in the T&C's, rather than conspiracy.

They have a moderately clever algorithm, but you're right that it's too rigid to model real life, with the flexibility of contextual offers. That would only be ok-ish if their disclaimers were upfront where the kids could see them, rather than hidden away.

They also haven't tested the application thoroughly enough. They have relied on feedback from schools to iron out any issues. Unfortunately, so far they haven't accepted that ruling out A*A*A courses for anyone with less than straight 9s at GCSE is an issue. (And probably there are equivalent issues for the full range if courses).

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Piggywaspushed Sun 10-Nov-19 09:18:12

But, as I said, I am bemused by the package your school has : there is no opportunity AT ALL to put in GCSE results (real or predicted) on my version of Unifrog.

Piggywaspushed Sun 10-Nov-19 09:20:10

ALPs predictions are quite low and always generalised (ie the same for all subjects). When fine tuned for each subject they produce a range of indicator grades, depending on the stats of that subject. I am always amazed that schools don't fine tune them (although from a teacher's pov, that is preferable!)

ErrolTheDragon Sun 10-Nov-19 09:22:19

Yeah, I don't suppose it's really a conspiracy, I did say 'almost'.

They ought to get some input from unis, not just schools. The trouble is, these things can be self-fulfilling prophecies. If they steer pupils towards lower ranked courses than could be accessed , those pupils will doubtless get 5 offers and the school may think job done.

Their algorithm ought to accommodate high grades in the types of subject being studied at A level, with a lower weighting for the others.

jammambo Sun 10-Nov-19 09:26:53

Piggy our school has had it since year 10. Maybe it"s a different version for schools that only have it in sixth form.

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