This past month students across Britain who applied to universities were sent the results of what are known as A level exams.  These were taken in the final of three grueling examination years that determine whether British students other than those educated in Scotland (which has its own system) will go to the college of their choice in the subject of their choice. Sort of.

The college process is stressful no matter what country you are from,  but the British have levels of stress unknown to Americans and others where the final acceptance process precedes the end of the school year.  British students in their final term receive conditional acceptances.  Conditional not on continuing to work hard and not slacking off as in the US but contingent on the actual outcome of the exams which is not known until August 19.   By April American SAT grades and other national exams have already been marked. Then again there are also colleges that do not care or do not care very much about the SATs.  Not so in Britain, students apply through a national clearinghouse  to a maximum of five schools and in the centre of that process is the A level exam.   You may be thinking, “how can a college accept a student if his/her exam grades are not yet known?”  Excellent question. The answer is that the grades are predicted by the students teachers.

If the teacher has predicted well and the students achieve the marks required by the college they are all right. Unless of course there are too many students chasing the same places.  Now you may be thinking “well US students also have to worry about a squeeze on their university admissions offices!” However,  US students do not receive letters promising that if they have all A grades (for example) they will be offered a place only to achieve those grades and be told in August – “sorry we’re full.”  How many students have I met who told me they assumed they had a college acceptance when they recieved their grades only to have their applications rejected?  Euphoria to depression in  minutes.

It is always interesting to see how the other half  lives.  Speaking of which what happens to those students whose teachers do not predict so well? Watch this space.



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