What are exams for? Are they fit for purpose? KS5

A levels are not without their flaws but they are probably the least bad of all the exams.

They are supposed to identify the top performers. They do to a certain extent. Arguably too many pupils get the top grades for an A or A* to truly mean that achieving these grades makes someone one of the top performers in the subject. I would probably tweak either the grade boundaries or make the papers a bit harder to address this but I wouldn’t make any major changes

They are supposed to identify those that are sufficiently good at the subject to study the subject or a related subject at university. They could do that to a certain extent if used properly. I’m surprised that some universities are willing to take students onto Mathematics and Science course with E grades in Maths and Physics but some of those students are successful at university (ordinarily the bright but lazy ones who change their ways when they get to university). Perhaps they need bums on seats and can’t be too choosy about who they accept.

I don’t see much in the way of jobs where A levels are specified in the person spec or a requirement.

I don’t have much of problem with modules or January sittings to be honest. I think if there is a problem then it is with retakes. If it were down to me I would n’t put students in for  January exams. I don’t like them for our students. that doesn’t mean no one should sit them though and I would retain them but make it a rule that no module can be retaken until all 6 modules have been sat.

I’d probably keep A/S levels if pupils were not allowed to resit modules until after all 6 modules had been taken.

My main problems with A Level are more to do with the institutions I have worked in than the course itself. In thinking about the problems with A level it took my a while to realize that the vast majority of problems are nothing to do with the A level itself and that it does not have to be the way it is. I had to rewrite this post completely when I this finally dawned on me.

For example:

Pupils for whom A level is completely inappropriate turn up in A Level classes year after year. Pupils who will at best scrape an E and probably won’t manage that turn up in A level class time after time. These pupils often do not pass any of their exams and eventually drop out. They generally take up a lot of teacher time because they need the most help. Every year teachers flag them up as students who will not last the year and every year they remain in the class struggling before eventually dropping out or not being entered because they won’t pass.

Retakes- Year after year we have the same problems in year 13. Pupils are allowed into year 13 with bad year 12 results. They retake their year 12 modules in January. This often means that they do little work on their year 13 modules because they have decided to focus on their (easier) retakes. As a value of judgement of how to rectify their poor grades in year 12 it does make sense to a degree. They have decided that it is easier to get good grades on year 12 modules than year 13 ones so that is where they put the bulk of their efforts between September and January. Some of them genuinely believe they will catch up the work they have not bothered with after the Jan exams. They rarely do.

The problem with this is that SLT do not do anything about this when it is happening. Support in getting these pupils to complete year 13 work has been non-existent or ineffectual. Invariably these pupils need to be retaught whatever they were supposed to be learning in the winter term because they know little of it, if any. This obviously impacts on their year 13 results.

The results analysis meeting often goes the same way.

  1. Pupils that were lacking motivation throughout year 12 are let into year 13 with dreadful results. This is clearly not the fault of the teacher who invariably warns against this.
  2. Pupils with bad A/S results were allowed to resit their A/S modules in January against the advice of the teacher. Pupils were getting mentor support for their retakes and revising for their retakes instead of doing any revision/homework for Core 3. This is clearly not the teachers fault.
  3. Pupils thus put no effort into Core 3. This was repeatedly flagged up to the powers that be. Nothing effective was done about it. Arguably this could be addressed if someone could put forward a convincing case that doing well in year 13 modules was a better option.
  4. All 3 year 13 modules had to now be crammed into 4.5 months with predictably poor results. This is not the teachers fault.

All of these points are made by the teacher in the meeting. None of them are accepted as valid. People would rather point fingers that accept responsibility for their own poor decision making and the same mistakes are made the next year.

ALPS targets: I ignore these completely as they are often ludicrous. Almost always much to high or much too low.


2 thoughts on “What are exams for? Are they fit for purpose? KS5

  1. Pingback: How would I change the exam system KS1-5 | mylifeasacynicalteacher

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