Thursday, 14 April 2011

Cambridge University: A-level scores are the best indicator of future degree success

Cambridge University has defended robustly its right to admit students on the basis of merit, without regard to social or educational background. Thus far it has resisted all pressure from Government to alter its admissions procedures to be a vehicle of social mobility. [See 'University is not for promoting social justice, says Cambridge vice-chancellor' Daily Telegraph 10/09/2008] The findings of a recent study conducted by the University Admissions Research Working Party gives support to this approach and to the policy of using AS-level UMS scores as the best predictor of future degree success.

Richard Partington, the report's author commented,
"A Levels - as measured by unit scores or UMS - were overwhelmingly the best indicator available of likely future degree performance. The one exception is for entry in Mathematics, where Cambridge Assessment's STEP exam gave the best indicator of potential."
The study, The Predictive Effectiveness of Metrics in Admission to Cambridge University, analysed the those students who sat Cambridge Tripos examinations in the period 2006-2009. It also found that Cambridge students from state and independent schools are equally likely to enjoy degree success:
"School background and gender did not make a significant difference. Given the same UMS performance at admission, students from different schools and colleges were equally likely to perform well in Cambridge exams in the period 2006-2009."
The study also found that GCSE grades, the preferred measure used by Oxford University, have largely been a less effective predictor than AS UMS. Interestingly, looking to the future, the Working Group are going to analyse the effectiveness of the A* at A-level as a predictor of future Tripos success.

Long may our top universities resist all external pressures to lower their admission standards to meet a social agenda; and long may they continue to admit students on the basis of merit as demonstrated in nationally recognised examinations.

School background is not a factor in Cambridge degree success Cambridge University News Website 05/04/2011

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