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Awarding the new A* grade at A level

Summer 2010 sees the first awards of the new A level specifications in nearly all subjects, together with the first awards of the new A* grade at A level. This new grade will reward exceptional performance and allow for improved discrimination between the best performing candidates. The A* grade will be awarded for all A levels, including those in which new specifications have not yet been introduced, such as mathematics.

It is important to remember that the A* grade will be awarded for the A level qualification only, not for the AS qualification or at unit level.

The A* grade will be awarded to candidates who have achieved: 

  • An A grade overall in their A level, and; 
  • 90 per cent of the maximum uniform marks (UMS) on the aggregate of their A2 units.

The way in which the A* grade is to be awarded will mean that it is achieved by learners who have consistently performed very well throughout their A level units and outstandingly on the A2 units. These incorporate the most challenging questions.

This has implications for you and your students and we want to make sure you are aware of these. It means that there will be candidates in summer 2010 who do not achieve an A* grade but who have higher A level UMS scores (which arise from the total units, both AS and A2) than candidates who have achieved the new grade.

It should also be noted that the percentage of A* grades is likely to vary from subject to subject, as does the percentage of A grades awarded each year. 

The new grade is not being awarded to a set percentage of the total candidates or a set percentage of those who achieve an A grade – it will strictly be awarded according to the rules set out above.

The following examples of candidates' results in a four unit A level. This is where 400 UMS are available. They show how a candidate may not achieve an A* despite having a higher UMS score than a candidate who does achieve the new grade.
 
Student X achieves a grade B at AS level (145 UMS) and then does very well at A2, achieving 180 UMS. She has, therefore, passed the A grade threshold at A level with a total of 325 UMS.

Student Y achieves a grade A at AS (190 UMS) but does less well at A2 (achieving 140 UMS). He, therefore, also passed the threshold for an A grade overall at A level with a total of 330 UMS.

Both students have made the 320 UMS threshold for an A grade for this A level. However, only Student X would receive an A* grade, as she met the requirement to achieve 90 per cent or more of the maximum uniform marks at A2, while Student Y did not.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to email:  info.quals@wales.gsi.gov.uk