GCE ‘A’ Levels 2011: A reflection

22 03 2012

It’s been about three weeks since the release of the GCE ‘A’ Level results. I’ve been putting off writing this post, thinking that over time, additional insights and realisations will emerge from revisiting the results. I think it’s been long enough now.

The following observations express simple correlations and patterns that struck me – whether any of them prove an actual causation is debatable, especially since my sample size isn’t particularly large, and due to the many other factors involved that weren’t (and can’t) be taken into account in my analysis.

I tried to avoid creating correlations based on the results (i.e.  working backwards from the grades and ‘assigning’ strengths retrospectively). Instead, what my analysis did was to look for correlations between strengths that I had previously identified, over the course of 2011 (the year leading up to the A levels), and the actual results that students achieved. What struck me was this:

Personal voice and style matters

When considering the students who achieved an A grade, the most striking thing I noticed was that there was a strong correlation between having either personal voice, or a distinctive (but effective) style.

Of the students who I felt had personal voice or a distinctive (but effective) style, 50% achieved an A grade.

Some of the students who I felt had personal voice / style, unfortunately, lacked some key GP skills. After removing these students from the list, I found that 75% of those students got an A. In other words, of the students with solid GP skills and personal voice / style, 75% of them achieved an A grade.

Does this mean that one cannot get an A without personal voice or style? No – because 19% of the students who got an A were those who I hadn’t identified as having personal voice.

So having personal voice did not necessarily result in an A. Neither was it true that one couldn’t get an A without personal voice. However, a strong correlation was apparent, which leads me to believe that after mastering the basics of GP, it really is worth the effort to invest in finding your own voice and style.

A few other observations (some, retrospective):

Read, remember, practice, apply. Several ‘A’ Level essay questions had been covered in class, either in terms of the topic (e.g. Prejudice & Discrimination), or in terms of having done a very similar question (e.g. the place of books vs. The place of newspapers). Students who studied these topics, practiced essays on these topics or applied good arguments previously discussed in class tended to do well (A/B grade).

Master all the skills, not just the more common ones. Of all the school-based exams, the one with the strongest match between top students in that (school-based) exam and top students in the ‘A’ Level 2011 was the one where the Comprehension paper tested the same skills that came out in the actual ‘A’ Levels. In the 2011 ‘A’ Levels, there was a relatively higher proportion of language use and figurative questions (compared to previous ‘A’ Level Comprehension papers). The school-based exam that best matched this type of paper was also the one where there was the closest match in top scorers for both exams (school-based and ‘A’ Levels). So to be safe, master all the skills, including the ones that appear to come out less often.

Get help if you’re struggling. Miracles are rare. Students who consistently performed poorly in school exams tended to do poorly in the ‘A’ Levels. In other words, if you have been consistently doing badly for GP, get help soon. 




6 responses

14 04 2012

Second your point on personal voice / style! I struggled a lot last year because most of my students could at best describe, describe, describe without really producing a real argument. I did notice that the only ones (very very few on my end indeed) who got As did always have something to say, even if their language skills were not up to par.

The ones who could express a REAL opinion but lacked content or short-answer question finesse only scored a B.

14 04 2012

Is it effective if i practice the essay and AQ questions but no one assess it? If yes, do you think that it is necessary to get a GP tuition teacher to perform this role or are there ways that i can do it myself?

15 04 2012
Adrienne de Souza

I’ll email you a reply to this. But essentially, I wouldn’t advise you to mark your own AQs, or to practice without having someone mark them.

Sent from my iPhone

14 04 2012

Oh, sorry! I mean “if no” to the first question that i asked.

29 04 2012

How about compositions? Do we write and not have anyone asses them?

30 04 2012
Adrienne de Souza


I generally don’t advise doing essays or AQs without having someone mark them for you – I believe that essays and AQs can’t really be marked objectively on your own.

However, if you have access to comprehension answer schemes, I think those could be marked on your own (though having another pair of eyes look at it and assess it is still preferable).

Sent from my iPhone

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