Thursday, August 17, 2006

How clever am I?

We've all been at a party or BBQ when some youngster (or their parents these days) starts to brag about their 5 A-grade A-levels (see picture to the left). You splutter, "but they were harder in my day!", and half-heartedly they agree, before continuing "but really Six A-levels, isn't that an achievement?". With today's results again showing a gain, the problem can only get worse.

What you were lacking was a way to quantify just how much easier they have got, and thus what grades you would have received if you were sitting them today.

Now in its second year, this handy ready-reckoner means the end to that situation, as it tells you exactly what your grades would be worth in today's debased currency. In other words, it provides a real level of exam results, to allow historical comparisons to be made fairly. The method is simple - it assumes there has been no improvement in standards and thus all of the increase in grades is due to pure inflation*. . If you believe there has been some increase in standards you will need to lower the multiplication factor, but if you believe standards have dropped you will need to increase it**.

First, calculate your A-level points using the old-fashioned method of 10 for an A, 8 for a B, 6 for a C etc. So for example 2 Bs and a C would be 22 points. Then multiply that by the multiplication factor, which is the number next to the year in which you took your A-levels. So, for example, if you took them in 1995 multiply 22 by 1.29, which gives you 28 points. Hence you can officially upgrade yourself to 2 As and a B. There are two more examples below. If you took them before 1992 then there wasn't a great deal of improvement so perhaps multiply by 1.45.

* I used to add here how I don't believe standards have declined in any meaningful sense, and still do, but I think you get the point.
** Even if you do believe that all of the gain has been due to higher standards, then the multiplication factor can still be seen as telling you what position in 'class', so to speak, you would have got if you were doing your exams now.