Catastrophe for physics at A level

November 24, 1995

I am studying for four "hard" science A levels and was naturally alarmed by Simon Szreter's inference that my grades may be worth less than those of my peers taking "softer" subjects. I do agree that the difference in percentages of candidates being awarded the higher grades may be due, at least in part, to the alternative styles of marking.

However, I would venture to suggest that there could be other factors involved. I do not have easy access to national A-level statistics but I can comment on the results of students of my own college. In 1994, 14 per cent of students taking mathematics A Level were entered for four A levels and only 4 per cent were entered for less than three subjects. Compare these figures with 0 per cent and 24 per cent respectively for A-level psychologists.To begin an A-level maths course students would be expected to have a GCSE grade of C or above but no such achievement is required for psychology. Indeed, the GCSE scores of psychology students are consistently lower (by almost 20 per cent on average) than those of the maths counterparts. It may be possible that a higher proportion of "hard" science A-level candidates actually deserve the A and B grades. For if (at least statistically) I had a one-in-four chance of being awarded a grade A in a subject where the average student had a 20 per cent lower GCSE score than me I would be sure to leap in!

Gareth Mines Hampton Dene, Hereford

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