Vocational A level tougher, colleges warn

August 16, 2002

College heads have urged university admissions tutors to ensure fair treatment of applicants holding "vocational A levels".

The plea came as this week's results appeared to confirm warnings that standards in the new exam are tougher than in traditional A levels.

The results showed that the pass rate among the first cohort of students taking the Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education - dubbed "vocational A levels" by ministers - was just 74.6 per cent, compared with 94.3 per cent for traditional A levels and 86.5 per cent for AS levels. Only 4.3 per cent of AVCE students gained an A grade, against 20.7 per cent of A-level students and 18 per cent of AS-level students.

Further education leaders said the design of the qualification, which is to be changed from September next year, was to blame for the relatively poor AVCE results.

The design fault was the result of efforts to meet the government's demands for vocational qualifications to be flexible and to carry equal status with their academic counterparts.

These requirements led to the AVCE being divided up into six units of equal standard over two years. This meant that students effectively had to achieve a standard equivalent to A level in their first year of study, rather than progressing to this level over two years as they would if they were taking a traditional A level.

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