A-level reform will lead to flood of ‘overambitious’ applications, says Cambridge admissions chief

The Telegraph is reporting that Cambridge Universitie’s head of admissions has warned that a major overhaul of A-levels will result in thousands of “overambitious” sixth-formers applying to Oxbridge when they have no chance of winning a place…

Government plans to effectively scrap AS-level exams – taken in the lower-sixth – are likely to leave students making “several unfortunate choices” during the admissions process, said Mike Sewell.

He said the AS exam currently acts as a “reality check”, sparing teenagers the “upsetting” experience of applying to Oxbridge when they do not have a realistic chance of getting in.

Without it, leading universities could be inundated with applications from pupils who take a string of top GCSEs taken at age 16 as a sign that they are Oxbridge material, it was claimed…

Mr Sewell said AS-levels traditionally acted as a guide to students considering applying to leading universities, warning that some may struggle to make sensible choices without them.

“AS-level results give some children the confidence to apply,” he said. “At the other end of the scale, we have a pastoral worry about overambitious students.

“At the moment, we can speak to potential applicants who say ‘here are my AS results, will I be a competitive applicant?’ And we can give them a really honest reply. We can say gently ‘look, don’t waste a choice or wait to apply after you have your A-level grades’.”

He added: “We worry that if some of these young people, on the basis of good GCSE results, make three or four applications that turn out to be overambitious, where do they go to university?

“There is a worry that without the AS-level reality check, they are at risk of making several unfortunate choices and that is awful for them. With AS results, they can sit down with their teachers and make realistic choice and target their universities quite sensitively.”…

More at: A-level reform will lead to flood of ‘overambitious’ applications, says Cambridge admissions chief


Interesting comments from Mike Sewell – but is it not the case that GCSE grades give virtually as accurate an indication of A level grades as do AS levels? Your thoughts on this? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Higher Education and Secondary.


  1. Mktadvice4schls

    Annette1Hardy SchoolsImprove it’s a lot easier when you’ve hard evidence. GCSE performance doesn’t always correlate to A level

  2. OoberKidsRepub

    SchoolsImprove we shld celebrate the fact that so many will want to try. Even failing is a good life lesson, nursing ‘what ifs’ is not

  3. ruthkennedy

    SchoolsImprove no GCSEs do not discriminate as well. Cantab finds AS results correlate closely w/ Tripos success.

  4. FionaTipper

    SchoolsImprove The current UCAS system is a colossal waste of time and energy. In Europe you get your results THEN apply. #Seemples

  5. ruthkennedy

    sjwilk “A large study showed there to be an excellent correlation between AS module marks (UMS) and subsequent performance in Tripos”

  6. ruthkennedy

    sjwilk Correlation especially strong in science subjects; AS UMS a significantly better predictor than GCSE, BMAT, TSA – than anything else

  7. Stylishstems

    The Universities should work to changing their academic year and look at applicants after their results. Students can then make a more realistic choice of University and the course to study.

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