Cambridge is poised to reintroduce a university-wide entrance examination for the first time in a generation in response to Government plans to abolish the AS level. This is from the Guardian…
The university is considering a universal exam which would be taken by all applicants to provide evidence of academic performance. The proposal comes as a reaction to Government plans to abolish the AS-level, taken in lower sixth and worth half an A-level, and replace it with a return to the traditional single-examination A-level at the end of the upper sixth form.
However universities have expressed concern that the loss of AS-level will make it more difficult for them to assess candidates.
Admission tutors regard them as the best indicator of students’ likely A-level grades and how they will do at degree level. They also argue that the AS-level results gives students from poorer backgrounds the confidence to apply to highly selective institutions.
Now Cambridge has said it will consider reintroducing its own exams, abolished in 1986, to make up for what it says is the problem caused by the exam reform.
Mike Sewell, the director of admissions at Cambridge, said if the key information provided by AS-levels was lost, the university would be forced to replace it with other evidence
Dr Sewell suggested that a new university-wide entrance exam might be similar to the Sixth Term Examination Paper (Step) in mathematics which candidates who currently apply to take the subject sit just after A-levels in June.
“We are already discussing ways forward,” said Dr Sewell. “What we are concerned about is that any of the alternatives run the risk of putting good students off, doing the opposite to what AS levels do, which is encourage people who secure good grades half way through their A-levels to apply.
“It would have to be a very different examination to the one that was dropped in the 1980s. Just what form it would take and when it was taken, would have to be carefully though through.
“If this has to be in place by 2016 we are not being left a lot of time to think through, talk to schools, develop something that is rigorous and talk to awarding bodies that might be involved in setting and marking.
“One option, rather than a pre-screening test, is something along the lines of the Step which would still be an extra hurdle that we are asking students to surmount.”