The Telegraph, 02.02.16, Cambridge University is introducing written entrance tests for the first time in a generation amid fears A-level grade inflation is failing to identify the brightest students. Chris Ramsey, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) universities committee and headmaster of The King's School, Chester is quoted.
The exam is being brought in to help the prestigious institution choose between candidates when the AS-level is scrapped next September under government reforms.
A letter sent to all sixth form colleges in the UK confirms "common format written assessments" will be introduced for new applicants to provide evidence of academic performance.
Exams may include a language aptitude test and a thinking-skills assessment, with multiple choice questions, as well as a 45-minute essay.
The tests will affect students applying for courses starting in autumn 2017 after a major overhaul of the exams system which will see sixth-formers sitting the first batch of new GCSEs and A-levels in some subjects.
Critics say a new exam would disadvantage state school pupils, who would be less likely than their private school counterparts to get the appropriate coaching to prepare for it. Last year five students, most predicted top grades at A-level, applied for each place.
The proportion of state school students admitted to study for a Cambridge degree has risen from about 50% to 60.6% since the university abolished the entrance exam in 1986. The university has been set a target of 69.4% for state school entrants.
Cambridge University has previously argued that for admission to its courses, AS-levels are the best predictor of how well a student will perform in every subject except maths. In November 2014, it wrote to all schools and colleges urging teachers to continue to offer the qualification.
Eight per cent of entrants received an A* at A-level last August, the same figure as last year. The overall pass rate of A* to E grades has recovered to 25.9 per cent after after last year falling for the first time in 30 years of grade increases.
While some schools and colleges will opt to keep AS-levels (which are studied over one year) and teach them alongside A-levels, others are set to drop the qualification to focus on the two-year qualifications.
The new tests will form part of Cambridge's assessments of candidates, rather than being a method of selecting students for interview, Dr Lucy said.
Those applying to the university for 2017 have to submit their application by October 15 this year and the pre-interview assessments will take place in early November, on the same day as Oxford University holds pre-interview tests, she added, while the at-interview assessments will take place in December.
"No advance preparation will be needed, other than revision of relevant recent subject knowledge where appropriate. Most at-interview assessments will be one hour in duration, and most pre-interview assessments will last no longer than two hours," she said.
Chris Ramsey, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) universities committee, said: "HMC welcomes this move. It brings greater clarity to Cambridge admissions and is in line with the arrangements operated by Oxford University. We look forward to discussions with the university on the design of the tests.
"Most schools in England still offer AS-levels in all subjects and so these candidates will need to understand the criteria on which they are being judged and the precise relationship between the new written tests and AS-levels in the admissions process."
The development brings Cambridge back in line with Oxford University, with still uses entrance exams for many of its courses.
A new website -- will be launched next month giving further information on the duration, content and format of each test.
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