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A* predictions at A level - how are your school assessing who gets one?

(43 Posts)
Swedes2Turnips0 Tue 13-Oct-09 21:52:58

Have just come back from parents' evening at school and spoke to the headmaster about how they will be predicting A* grades. Basically they are making it up as they go along and it is totally inconsistent across subjects.

Most universities are saying they aren't going to use them. But how can admissions tutors ignore what they see in front of them, even though they are not officially using it. An optimistic school predicts 4* for Johnny and a not so optimistic school would predict maybe one A* or none. But they are the same candidate.

S'rubbish isn't it?

ZZZenAgain Tue 13-Oct-09 22:08:17

I agree with you. Dd is not at secondary yet so don't have any experience of it but it does sound very hit and miss.

Would have thought there would be some criteria for the assessment that all schools more or less adhere to - apparently not then.

webwiz Wed 14-Oct-09 07:56:45

Surely they will use AS performance as a starting point? I would have thought most schools won't actually predict A*s yet and would stick to the A grade as no one has actually taken any of the exams that award it yet.

sarah293 Wed 14-Oct-09 08:00:27

Message withdrawn

webwiz Wed 14-Oct-09 08:03:34

Riven its this year's A2 exams so the current year 13 will be the first to take the papers in Jan and May.

BonsoirAnna Wed 14-Oct-09 08:04:53

Marking is an art, not a science. Everyone wants to know precisely what the evaluation/assessment criteria are, always, so that they can develop strategies to maximise their points in whatever homework/test/exam they are taking.

I have recently been having an ongoing discussion about this with DSS2, who is 12. His current English (EFL) teacher is rubbish and both sets and marks work that is wrong (she uses incorrect English or misses mistakes). DSS2 comes home in a fury because he hasn't got 10/10, even though his homework is perfect (he is very good at English versus his class). I keep asking him whether it matters? At the end of the day, does he want 10/10 with this teacher, or does he want to speak, read and write fluent English?

Getting too het up about A-level predictions and marking criteria leads to the same frustrations and reductionist approach to learning. Don't worry too much - I don't think many students miss out on the university places they really deserve/are best suited to.

sarah293 Wed 14-Oct-09 08:05:10

Message withdrawn

webwiz Wed 14-Oct-09 08:14:03

BonsoirAnna the problem is our system for applying to university relies on predicted grades for A level so it does matter. Also you need high predictions to be given an offer on popular courses eg AAB but the offer from a university might not actually be as high as the predictions eg ABB.

BonsoirAnna Wed 14-Oct-09 08:21:26

I know that, webwiz - I know all about the UK university system. I went to university in the UK and I didn't even have A levels and it didn't matter. University admissions tutors look at the whole picture. Focusing too much on predicted grades is a waste of energy.

If the school gets it seriously wrong, there is always clearing OR you can take a gap year and reapply, knowing what grades you have.

thepumpkineater Wed 14-Oct-09 08:26:16

At our school they are predicting A*s for those who are likely to get 90% plus, in all A2 modules. I have a feeling that the criteria for awarding an A* is to get above 90% in all A2 modules in one go, but I am ready to stand corrected.

Not all universities are meant to be asking for them this year but I think Oxford (and prob Cambridge) are asking for A*AA. Again am not entirely sure of this.

In reality, everyone applying for Oxbridge is predicted at least AAA and most pupils of that standard are interviewed and take other tests/submit work too.

brimfull Wed 14-Oct-09 08:27:49

trouble is it has become ridculously competitive to get into the decent universities-so predicted grades could really influence whether you get an offer or not

scaryteacher Wed 14-Oct-09 08:28:10

You may not be able to afford a gap year Anna, and it IS serious if the school gets it wrong, as you may not have applied to or been turned down by the uni you really wanted to go to. If the school gets it seriously wrong, then questions should be asked about what they are doing. The system has moved on since you and I went to uni.

As for clearing...this year it has been a problem as there haven't been as many places due to the funding crisis, so getting a place has been difficult for those going through clearing.

BonsoirAnna Wed 14-Oct-09 08:30:15

But it is very wrong indeed if everything hangs on predicted grades rather than actual grades. A school's job is to teach, not to assess - assessment should and must be done independently, IMVHO.

thepumpkineater Wed 14-Oct-09 08:36:49

BonsoirAnna, I completely agree with your sentiments but unfortunately the system doesn't work like that now.

Top universities are increasing looking at GCSE grades as well as A level grades so the classic lazy pupil who mucks about at GCSE then pulls self together for A levels (as used to happen a lot in my day) has rather scuppered their chances of even applying to Oxbridge as won't have the string of A*s which is required nowadays. Personally I think it is wrong as many, not that bright, pupils do get all As at GCSE and then find A level work much harder, and others who didn't get all As come into their own at A level (as well as those who have inadvertently taken the wrong GCSEs due to going to crap school or something).

Long gone are the days where people swanned in with two Es or whatever(whether those two Es then are worth 3 As now is another discussion though )

BonsoirAnna Wed 14-Oct-09 08:48:32

I don't remember pupils swanning in with bad GCSEs (or O-levels). And more not fewer pupils are going to British universities these days with non-traditionally British qualifications, including no intermediate (GCSE) type qualification (although the move to an intermediate qualification is become more prevalent internationally).

The trouble is, if parents insist on schools being absolutely accurate in their predictions, that just feeds schools' much criticised propensity to teach to the test and for examinations to be dumbed down.

brimfull Wed 14-Oct-09 08:53:39

that's exactly the problem Anna- so much hangs on grades these days the schools reputation and the child's chances of university entrance.
The schools all teach to the exams for the all important grades.

thepumpkineater Wed 14-Oct-09 08:56:34

Well I am afraid the current examination system does encourage teaching to the test, presumably whether the teachers like it/ agree with it or not, and that is the system the pupils nowadays have to adhere to.

scaryteacher Wed 14-Oct-09 08:56:58

I don't suppose that they even looked at our O levels Anna, given that we are roughly the same age, when we applied to uni. Yes, students are going with IB quals, but again, not all the universities like this, and some make really high offers, as they don't always understand the gradings in comparison with the A levels.

Uni entry has always hung on predicted grades for those going straight from year 13, and until the exams are moved to a different time of year, it will stay that way. That's why students and parents need to know that the predictions are roughly accurate. The unis need to know this too, so they can make offers, given that they don't have the time to interview each candidate.

brimfull Wed 14-Oct-09 09:06:51

when do they decide the predicted grades
we have parents evening on monday for dd who is in yr 13,will they give them then?

Swedes2Turnips0 Wed 14-Oct-09 11:20:00

Apparently 45% of predicted grades are wrong. So it really isn't a science.

I am just a bit more than fed-up that DS1 who has just applied to read medicine (which he won't bew offered through clearing grin) is taking part in an educational experiment without any scientific controls.

DS's school is only giving A* grades to those who got more than 90% at AS level. Whereas I know of another school who are giving A* grades to anyone who got over 80% at AS level and another school who are giving an A* prediction to anyone who wants one, provided they got an A at AS level.

All medicine candidates are of a high calibre. I am just wondering whether he might be unfairly disadvantaged if he comes up against a candidate with similar academics but who happens to go to a school with a more generous approach to the A* grade predictions. Even universities who aren't using the A* grade this year can't ignore what is printed in front of them surely? Candidate A with 5 A* predictions or candidate B with 3 A* and 2 A predictions? Even though candidate B might actually have the edge.

In any case, I think it's ridiculous to base it wholly on performance at AS level. As the top grade at AS level is an A. It's a bit like climbing Mont Blanc with ease but someone refusing to let you try Everest because you've only previouslyt made it to 14,000M and therefore that's all they believe you are capable of. As if A level performance is any indication of academic prowess in any case.

Anywaym at least in medicine they have the UKCAT and BMAT which is a much better measure of raw intelligence than reductionist A levels. I feel sorry for those who are going after a subject without its own test though.

The sooner they make A level exams occur in the Spring term leaving the final term at school free for applying based on actual grades the better.

Swedes2Turnips0 Wed 14-Oct-09 11:30:27

"If the school gets it seriously wrong, there is always clearing OR you can take a gap year and reapply, knowing what grades you have."

Even if you take a gap year and apply with your 3 A* and 2 A grades in actual A level results, you are still in competition with the following year's cohort who are applying based on their predicted grades.

I think DS1 will be OK. He has a very strong application. But I wish he wasn't the part of this experiment. I hate arbitrariness.

Swedes2Turnips0 Wed 14-Oct-09 11:33:42

DS1 has applied now as Oxbridge and Medicine candidates have to apply by the 15th October. The deadline is a few months off for other students. I would imagine the papers will be full of this issue as the main UCAS closing date approaches.

Drayford Wed 14-Oct-09 13:41:21

None of the Universities DD has visited have indicated anything more than A's for offers. Her top 2 are Russell Group Universities and are asking for AAA and AAB. She will be taking a music degree so not sure how this relates/compares with other academic subjects.

Interestingly, DD's school put a lot of faith in personal statements and feel that predicted grades are just the first step to get through when applications are first screened by universities. I'm not sure if they are putting A* grades in, but DD has been predicted A/A* for two of her subjects by her tutors.

I always understood that deferred applicants did not have their places confirmed until A level results were out.

mumofsatan Wed 14-Oct-09 13:55:00

very interesting reading as I'm new to all this as DC1 has just started at his 6th form college.
There seems to be a wealth of knowledge on here so am wondering if someone can answer a query for me. Sorry its a little off track.
Ref gap years, its looking like DC is going to have to have a gap year so would he still apply to his universities of choice with his peers and if offered a place defer it, or would he have to wait and apply after he has left his college?

Apparently they are starting UCAS lessons on his return to school after half term but it would be helpful to have a bit more information now.

BonsoirAnna Wed 14-Oct-09 14:04:23

I didn't do O-levels, but I had to fill out my UCCA (as it then was) form with the grades from my penultimate school year in lieu of O-levels.

IB is far from the only alternative qualification that British universities need to understand in order to assess prospective students' suitability. I think all this obsessing about predicted A*s versus As is missing the point a bit. University admissions tutors are generally very experienced and intelligent people who do not reduce their reading of a UCAS form to predicted grades.

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