17 August 2007

The A-Level Examination 1951-2007

The Advanced or A-Level Examination, that measure of whether sixth-formers should be packing their trunks with medieval French text books and punting poles in preparation for a trip to Oxbridge(1) or buying new trunks for a BA in Media and Beach Studies at Bournemouth University (including modules on Summertime Special and the Semiology of Butlins), has passed away following a crash in its academic value which, tragically, rendered it of even less worth than a US sub-prime housing loan or the singing career of David Hasselhoff.

The Exam was born in 1951, the child of the Higher School Certificate(2), and offered the chance for children from Prime Minister’s sons to coalminer’s daughters to spend two years studying a range of fascinating subjects including Mathematics, English, French, Biology, History, Physics and Politics before proceeding to university at tax-payers’ expense to spend three years studying duffel coats, alcohol, jazz, the opposite sex (or indeed, the same sex depending on preference) and the life-cycle of whatever that thing is that's growing on the plates piled up in the sink.

The Exam was held in high esteem as swotty teenagers from all backgrounds studied long into the night in order to gain an understanding of the world around them and win a place at a university far, far away in order to acquire knowledge, develop their personality in new surroundings and escape parents who kept saying things like, "If t’pit was good enough for your mother, it’s good enough for you, John-Thomas", or, "Tarquin, why oh why must you persist with this ridiculous fancy of going to university when you know your uncle Charles will give you a job in the City?"

Despite claims in the late 1960s and 70s that The Exam had become devalued, following evidence that several members of the Royal Family had actually managed to pass it, The Exam proved to be not only challenging yet popular with many teenagers but was also an enormous boost to Britain’s lucky gonk industry every summer.

By the 1980s, however, rumours were circulating that all was not well: despite The Exam's claim to be the "gold standard" in education, capable of identifying the very best of young students, the number of students gaining A-grade passes began to rise steadily year-on-year thanks to new modular courses including Watching Television, Getting Your Teacher To Fill It In For You and A-Level History (The History of the A-Level). Matters became even worse in the late 1990s and Noughties with increasing access to the internet leading to the most common answer to an A-level exam question being "HTTP Error 404 - File Directory Not Found".

By 2007, with exam results showing that the percentage of A-level pass grades had risen for the 25th year in a row, the credibility of The Exam's claim to be "Advanced" was fatally wounded ... particularly as most of the A-level pass grades were obtained in the subject "Turning Up For Two Hours And, Like, Chatting About Big Brother". With statisticians projecting that at the current level of grade inflation everyone (including your cat) will have to have an A-level in future and an A***** with bar will be required just to be qualified to drink soup, A-level certificates were no longer worth the text message they were sent on and The Exam found itself facing deletion.

The Exam will be buried at the Nokia University of East Cheam Multi-Denominational Chapel and Chill-Out Zone. The service will be conducted by Professor Emeritus Dermot O’Leary and the congregation will sing hymn 412 Know Nothing by Travis from the Multiple Choice Book of Past Papers.

A-levels are survived by the Baccalaureate, the Pre-U(3) and the new National Lottery Year 13 scratchcard.

(1) an ancient university town halfway between Oxford and Cambridge renowned for its alumni’s influence on British politics, light entertainment and Anglo-Russian relations for the last 800 years.
(2) which our usual extensive research suggests could only be obtained at educational establishments at least 800 metres above sea-level.
(3) a new university entrance system cooked up between Oxford, Cambridge and “Independent” Schools absolutely in no way designed to keep the non-U out of Oxford and Cambridge.

1 Comment:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Great post with a great deal of truth in it!