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Language A-Level Results Improve After Claims Exams Were Too Hard For Non-Native Speakers

Language A-Level Results Improve After Claims Exams Were Too Hard For Non-Native Speakers

Today's exam results seem to have quelled concerns that language A-levels are too difficult for non-native speakers to do well, after the number of top grades awarded to those studying a foreign language rose has risen.

The Evening Standard reports that 41.4 percent of those taking German A-levels were awarded an A or A*, up from 39.6 percent last year, while 39 percent of Spanish A-Level exam takers were given the top grades compared to 37.3 per cent last year.

Those taking French also saw their results improve, with 36.9 percent getting an A or A*, an increase of 2.5% from last year.

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The results come after exam regulator Ofqual made changes aimed to help non-native speakers achieve better results.

The organisation took action after research demonstrated top grades were much more likely to go to native speakers than non-native speakers, increasing the proportion of students achieving a grade A and above in French, German and Spanish A-levels by one percentage point.

The changes come on the back of teachers warning that it's become much more difficult for students to get good grades in language exams.

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That's partly because A-levels in modern languages also have a literature component, something which is thought to give native speakers a clear advantage.

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"We welcome any change that will deal with what we call 'harsh grading' of modern languages, and one of the factors that impacts on the grading is native speakers," Malcolm Trobe, the deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the paper.

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"It's still more difficult to get high grades in modern languages than in other subjects. This has implications for the take-up of languages. It is a vicious circle because if we are not producing enough modern linguists, then we're not producing enough language teachers," he added.

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Despite the positive trend revealed by today's results, the number of people taking modern foreign language A-levels is still in decline, although according to Mark Bedlow, director of regulation at the OCR exam board, that decline is slowing - and in Spanish it has actually been reversed.

Nevertheless, entries for French and German A-levels fell by over a quarter between 2011 and 2016. Degree course applications for European languages have also dropped by a quarter over the past five years.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK, Exam

James Dawson

James Dawson is a Journalist at LADbible. He has contributed articles to LADbible’s ‘Knowing Me, Knowing EU’ series on the EU referendum, the 'Electoral Dysfunction' series on the 2017 general election, the ‘U OK M8?’ series tackling mental health amongst young men, and for its ‘Climate Change’ initiative in partnership with National Geographic.