Soaring A* pass rate predicted
Nearly one in 10 A-level exams could be awarded an A* grade, it has been predicted.
Last summer, one in 12 (8.1%) entries achieved the top grade.
But with more universities asking for A*s, and students and teachers becoming more aware of the requirements, the success rate could leap this year, it was suggested. At the same time the overall pass rate could drop slightly, according to Professor Alan Smithers.
The predictions come just days before teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to receive their A-level results.
Prof Smithers, of Buckingham University's Centre for Education and Employment Research, predicted the A* pass rate could rise by at least 1%. "I think that the A* is fast becoming the new A," he said. "Last year 8.1% of exams got an A*, that was when it wasn't as important for university entrants."
Teachers and students were also not well versed in what would be required to achieve the grade, Prof Smithers added.
This year, they are likely to be more aware of what is needed for an A*, and at the same time more universities are asking for it, making it more important to students. "One might expect that it (A*) will go up by nearly one percentage point, maybe even more," Prof Smithers said. "Twenty-five years ago 10% got an A. This year it's likely to be 9% or more getting an A*."
And the increase in A* grades could have a knock-on effect on the numbers of A grades. In 2010, more than one in four entries (27%) were awarded at least an A. "If one projects forward from what it has been in previous years, it could be 27.4% or 27.5% that are likely to be getting A grades."
The A* grade was awarded for the first time last year. To achieve it, pupils must get an A overall, as well as at least 90% of all the marks available in the second year of their course.
A-levels have also been revamped, with pupils taking four modules instead of six, and answering "stretch and challenge" questions designed to allow youngsters to fully demonstrate their knowledge. It is these changes that could contribute to an overall drop in the pass rate, it was suggested.