First 3A* offer made

Cambridge has given out its first offer conditional on the applicant obtaining 3 A*s at A Level.

Dr Geoff Parks, Director of Admissions at Cambridge, told The Cambridge Student (TCS) that "there is only one case of a 3 A* offer having been made. This was in very individual circumstances. Both the recipient of the offer and their school are happy about the level of the offer in the circumstances."

In line with the introduction of the new A* grade at A level, which will be awarded for the first time this year to candidates who have achieved an average of 80% in exams across both years of A-level study and 90% at A2, Cambridge has increased its standard offer from AAA to A*AA. The subject in which the A* has to be achieved is usually unspecified.

Cambridge leads the way among British universities in asking applicants for an A* grade.

Oxford in contrast will not use the A* grade when making offers for 2010 or 2011 entry.

Ella Walters received an A*AA offer from Girton to read History in 2010. Talking to TCS, she commented "I feel that the introduction of the A* is justified, particularly since I would expect most, if not all, of the other people I know who either have offers or are currently at Cambridge, to achieve equivalent marks regardless."

However, some colleges have decided to raise their offers for the most competitive subjects, such as Medicine and Law, to include more than one A*. Joseph Steadman, from Northampton School for Boys, has been offered a place to study Law at Selwyn, on the condition that he achieves A*A*A.

Talking to TCS, he said: "The A* certainly didn't affect my decision to apply to Cambridge and it doesn't put me off accepting my offer.

"What it does mean is that I really need to work hard in order to make sure that I meet the requirements, whereas for an AAA offer I would have felt less worried".

He commented, however, that "many colleges are not requiring the A*, particularly in humanities subjects. This means that, for example, my friend who applied for Law at Downing now needs AAA whereas I need A*A*A for the same course."

Dr Parks highlighted the fact that the A* system is still in its infancy. "No A*s have been awarded on A levels yet. It will take at least a couple of years until we can properly assess just how useful the new grade is."

Key Facts: A* Grades - How would current students shape up to the new system?

About 1 in 8 A-level students now score straight As.

45% of science students currently studying at Cambridge would have gained three or more A*s.

Only 25% of current Cambridge arts students would have achieved three or more A*s.

At least 70% of science students and 55% of arts students would have gained at least two A*s, however.

Louise Floyd - News Reporter

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