Letters extra: AS-levels

6th July 2001 at 01:00

No doubt the debate on the merits if the new AS-levels will continue long into the night. I have two comments to add.

First, we shall all be wiser next year when the UCAS attitude towards AS-levels is clarified. Certainly teachers should be able to make better tactical decisions about when to enter their students for modules.

It may suit some subjects to continue to enter for the AS at the end of the first year of a two-year A-level course. However, in subjects such as pure maths where a student's skills are being continually developed it makes more sense to enter modules in January and June of the second year of an A-level course.

Second, I think that the naming of the new exam as AS (advanced subsidiary) is particularly ill-conceived. Throughout the 1990s there was another AS exam (advanced supplementary). Although on the whole not very well received by schools and colleges, many students took this.

In my area of mathsstatistics it was particularly useful for social sciencehumanities students to take an AS qualification in statistics. Unlike the advanced subsidiary, these AS-levels had the full depth of understanding required at A-level but roughly half the breadth. My point is that in future this old AS qualification will be devalued by employers and universities who will confuse it with the less demanding new AS.

Peter Law
Department of Academic Studies,
Thanet College,

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