University is still the most popular path for those leaving schools with A-levels. When applying for places with a university they will always consider a student’s predicted grades as part of the process. These are set by a pupil’s teacher but recently they have been accused of – and admitted to – over-inflating grades to help students get accepted by the top institutions.

The university application process with UCAS revolves around predicted grades and some potential students will be rejected simply because they have low predictions. Figures from UCAS show that only a fifth of students predicted to achieve ‘ABB’ actually achieve these grades. This suggests that a huge number are being predicted something that they cannot achieve.

Does having inaccurate predicted grades harm a young person? Do they automatically expect to get these high predicted grades? Are teachers setting these students up for failure?

Teaching Unions recently admitted that the boosting of predicted grades at A-level to get university offers is a major problem, and that all universities may have to follow Cambridge university’s lead and introduce written assessments to get an accurate measure of applicant’s abilities. It has been suggested by the unions that the fault for this trend does not rest with teachers, instead they accuse parents of pressurising teachers into predicting based on what university they want their child to go to.

Parents pushing their children to achieve is nothing new, however by having impossible targets set, they could be doing more harm than good. The added pressure of trying to achieve a set of results that you cannot physically accomplish can be very taxing. It can lead to an increase in stress levels and can cause mental harm. It is also a deeply disappointing experience. Learning that you missed out on the place you really wanted can be one of the most upsetting experiences for a young person. Not reaching the grades would lead to endless calls and checking of the clearing website which is even more bewildering and daunting than the initial application process.

How Predicted Grades are Determined

Teachers will consider a number of factors when determining predicted grades. They will look at results achieved on practice tests, standard of work and consider the motivation of a pupil. This makes it a very complex process. There is no way a teacher can know if a child will continue to work at the levels they have done for the rest of the year.

Another key factor in determining predicted grades was the AS level – however as this has now been separated from an A-level qualification it cannot be used as an accurate marker of a student’s progress. Predicted grades look set to continue as a key application criterion for university level education but it needs to be fairly assessed by the teacher and parental intervention in setting the target should be avoided.