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A* Results at A Level and GCSE should be for the top 10% only

Comment 20th July 2010

A* grades at both A Level and GCSE should be allocated to the top 10% of candidates in the country.

When an exam is marked it scores from 0 to 100 percent and the threshold for grade bands is, for instance, 70% correct answers for a B and 80% correct for an A.

Those who reach these thresholds should rightly be given their appropriate grade. However A* should be reserved for the top 10% of candidates, not just some one who scores over, for instance, 85%.

A candidate's paper would be marked to the percent and given an A grade for achieving 80%, and only after all papers are marked would the A* percentage threshold be set, to allow a 10% quota of candidates through. If their paper achieved this amount they would then be upgraded to the A*. Logistically, if really necessary, this upgrade could happen a couple of weeks after the initial GCSE results are revealed.

Why does this matter?

At present someone who scores 99% receives the same level of qualification as someone who gets 85%. Given the number of people achieving A* grades this does not allow universities to adequately judge the top talent.

In an atmosphere where the media and many others (including myself) believe exams are getting easier, this would maintain a gold standard for top grades. The relative difficulty of the paper does not impact the fact the candidate achieved a top 10% mark in it. This would allow the truly bright to still shine through the masses.

This, I think, is particularly important for the more rigorous university courses. It is in everyone's, not least the candidates, interest that they are capable enough to handle these tough courses. It would boost attainment and reduce the drop out level.

Ultimately I think it is a fair idea that would be simple to implement. It would however help if all candidates sat with the same unified exam board, so moderation of 4 different papers was unnecessary. That is a separate idea I will write upon next!

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