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Examinations Schools


end of the second sixth form year. Students can gain nine different grades, ranging from D (Distinction) 1 – which exceeds the A star grade – to P ( Pass) 3, which equates in the UCAS tariff to an A level E grade. It’s all about encouraging independence of mind: there’s an emphasis on analysis and in-depth study techniques designed to bridge the gap between school and university – and assorted bells and whistles. Unlike the IB, Pre-U students can either work towards a diploma or mix and match individual subjects with A-level courses. John Witheridge, who made the decision


to do away with A levels at Charterhouse in one fell swoop and replace them with the Pre-U, says the exam lives up to its title – making bright students university-ready: “What universities


have been telling us for a long time is that even candidates with straight As at A level are in no way ready to begin first year undergraduate work [and] more courses are turning the first year…into a kind of glorified sixth form.” The main perceived Pre-U drawback – limited facilities for resits – is being addressed with plans to offer a session in November as well as the summer. And the support is outstanding, says Jill Milner, head mistress of Walthamstow Hall, one of the pilot schools for the Pre-U. “At a half-way stage of the course a mock is


set, which is marked in-school and then very quickly moderated by the Pre-U examiners who give very detailed feedback. The other revolutionary thing they’ve done is contacted all the universities [the girls are applying to] to make sure they are fully briefed.” Both Sevenoaks and Charterhouse exude great passion when they talk about the benefits of A-level alternatives. So if it works for them, why aren’t a growing


number of independent schools following their example, ditching the A level completely,


www.firstelevenmagazine.co.uk ✏ Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 17


Even candidates


with straight As at A level are in no way ready to begin first year


undergraduate work


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