German language A-level ‘in danger of becoming extinct due to shoddy marking standards’

The Independent is reporting warnings from independent school heads that German is in danger of becoming extinct as an A-level subject because of shoddy marking standards.

The situation is so serious that  the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference – which represents 275 of the UK’s leading independent schools – have written to university admissions officers urging them not to place to place too much emphasis on getting an A or A* grade when offering a place.

William Richardson, general secretary of HMC, speaking at its annual conference in St Andrews, Scotland, said: “We’re writing to tutors to tell them – when making their place offers – that schools no longer have confidence in the grades that students are getting.”

He said they need to consider that and not place too much reliance on getting a top grade pass.

Concern over marking standards in modern foreign languages exams have dogged the examination system for several years now.  Experts say this is due to poor design of the questions –  there are fewer hard or easy questions so examiners find it difficult to assess who are the bright children because they are given fewer opportunities to show their talents.

A survey by the Independent schools Modern Languages Association and HMC revealed  – against school predictions –  inconsistency of grading had been more pronounced this summer than in previous years.

It added:  “There are sever problems with the grading of German …  In most cases, it is the more able pupils who have been penalised…”

More at: German language A-level ‘in danger of becoming extinct due to shoddy marking standards’


It seems a pretty sad state of affairs if admissions tutors are being told not to judge candidates by their A-level grades – surely one of an exam’s key purposes – if not the key purpose – should be to help enable third parties to assess competence through the grades people who have taken the exam have achieved? 

Overall, do you share the concerns about A-level foreign language marking?

Please let us know your experiences and insights in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. This is the second complaint from independent schools about A level marking in two days.  Is it really as bad as they make out?  A cynic might say they’re concerned about the number of state school pupils getting top grades or the fact that similarly-qualified pupils from state schools outperform private ones at uni.

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