Student stress in exam system

Having recently observed at close hand the stress placed upon one student studying the International Baccalaureate and seeking admission to a University of Cambridge college, I would advise state school pupils to stick to A-levels if they want to go there.

My concern is partly to do with how Cambridge colleges measure IB against A-level scores. The maximum obtainable in IB overall is 45 points (seven points in any one of the six subjects taken, with the extra three points coming from a 4,000-word essay). A conditional place this year at the college in question in modern languages required 42 IB points, which the

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service deems to be the equivalent of between four and five A* grades.

However, a student sitting A- levels normally requires only one or two A*s. The college also stipulated that scores of 7, 7 and 6 must be obtained in the three IB subjects taken at higher standard. A student taking A-levels would concentrate for two years on three subjects alone (with an AS exam at the end of the first year to measure progress).

The IB student has one all-or-nothing exam at the end of year two and has to spend time on three additional standard-grade subjects that may or may not be areas of strength.

To me, 42 points and 776 at IB or two A* A-levels appears an unfaircomparison.

My other concern is how the Cambridge system appears to work against state school IB students. Cambridge takes 59 per cent of its intake from the state sector with the rest from private schools – which represent only seven per cent of the schools in the UK.

Cambridge Admissions Office maintains that it has rigorously researched the effect on Tripos results of their colleges’ requirements for IB and A-levels. They say that the admissions procedure is fair and allows colleges to show some flexibility with ‘borderline’cases taking account of a student’s background, reports from schools etc.

A student’s ‘potential’ is a key factor. Presumably a college also takes into account the often more challenging learning environment experienced by students in the state compared with the private system. The state college student in question failed to get 7, 7, 6 by one mark and was rejected



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