A-levels are easier now

William JordanUS Elections Editor
August 14, 2013, 9:10 AM GMT+0

People tend to think that A-levels have got easier in the past ten years

Tomorrow, sixth-form students around the country will receive their final A level exam results. Last year marked the first year in 21 years that the number of A grades in A levels dropped, following the introduction of tougher marking rules. Then, a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed 48% of British adults attributed the rising scores of recent years to easier exams, and not higher teaching or school standards.

A new YouGov poll for the Sunday Times reveals that the British public are over four times more likely to think exams have got easier over the last ten years than to think they have got harder, and most Britons continue to be supportive of last year’s marking rule changes. 

56% of British adults with an opinion on the subject say exams have got easier over the last ten years, compared to 32% who say they have stayed about the same and only 12% who say they have got easier.

Younger Britons are the most likely to say exams have got harder – 24% of the 18-24 age group with an opinion on exams select this option, compared to only 8% of those in the 60+ age group – but even among this group, the most common belief (held by 40% of the 18-24 age group) is that exams have got easier. 

In 2012, the number of students receiving A or A* results dropped to 26.6%, after rising to 27% in 2011. The last time there was a year-on-year drop was 1990-1991, when the percentage of A-Levels scoring the top grade fell from 12% to 11.9%. 

A majority of the public (53%) also believe it was right to introduce tougher marking rules last year, siding with the view that easier marking rules made it harder for the better pupils to stand out. Only 21% took the opposing view, which holds that the tougher rules put current students at a disadvantage to pupils who took exams before the rules came into effect. 

A 2012 YouGov poll taken after that year’s grades were announced showed a slightly larger majority of 61% supported the rule changes.

The Daily Mail recently reported that this year as many as 30,000 sixth-form students opted to submit dissertations under the Extended Project Qualification, which can all students to stand out from other pupils with equal A-Level results following a “collapse of confidence in exams” caused by grade inflation. The qualification is worth half an A-Level and is usually presented as a 5,000-word report.

Image: Getty

See the full poll results