AS has yet another meaning in the UK. It refers to 'Advanced Subsidiary' qualifications.

These used to be inferior qualifications to full 2 year A-level courses. As of September 2000, they are the first half of full A-level courses, taken by 16/17 year olds in British sixth forms and colleges. This is where it gets complicated.
In the first year you learn just less than half the full a-level course, and take AS-level exams in the summer of the first year. In the second year you complete the other half of the course, called the A2, and take further exams at the end of that year.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the new system. It means everything, including university or job applications, no longer hangs on final exams which are impossible to retake. Now you have half an a-level by the time you enter the second year. The system has been designed to let students take 4 ASs and only carry on 3 through A2, and so have a wider range of subjects under their belts.

However, due at least in part to the fact that my year has been the first year doing them, many large problems have arisen.

1.There is now massive pressure on students throughout the first and second years;
2.Due to the need to revise for exams, and the necessary time to adjust to a-levels, the period during which year-long AS-level courses have been properly studied has been reduced to around 5-6 months. Consequently, teachers and students have struggled to complete the courses. Universities are totally confused by the issue and do not know how to judge candidates. They have also said that a 4th AS in the first year is a bad idea.
3.As if to rub salt into the wound, the examining boards have also made some mistakes. Exams have been leaked, not enough consideration has been given to writing them leading to exams with impossible questions, and now we hear there will not be enough markers and we may have to wait until December to get our results.
4.My year have just become the most examined teenagers ever in Britain. We took major public GCSE exams last year. This year we have had to take AS-level exams on which many universities will base their offers, and next year we will yet again be subject to more important exams. I am not against exams, i think they are necessary, but for 16-18 year olds to be constantly under great pressure if they want to do well is simply wrong.

This should be a time for parties and pubs, not bloody constant exams. So, please, if we want to create a generation of boring nerds, we should continue on the same theme, but for interesting, well-rounded young people, give us a break!

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