The tension was palpable Thursday morning. Ufuoma Eyituoyo, a 20-year-old student of Westminster Kingsway College, was sick with nerves as she prepared to open the A-level results that would be her ticket to study biology at Imperial College London. She needed two As and a B, including an A in biology.
Ms Eyituoyo opened her results and, after a short pause, folded the sheet and placed it back in the envelope. She had secured two Bs, in biology and economics, and a C in chemistry, not enough to secure a place in either Imperial College or her second choice university of Bath, for which she needed an A and two Bs.
But after a mercifully short time in the limbo of clearing, she was accepted to read biology at Royal Holloway, part of London University.
“I don’t know what happened with biology,” said a measured Ms Eyituoyo, “Chemistry was a really tough exam and it was doing my head in, I don’t know what happened in biology though, that really is a surprise.”
Asked whether she felt she had had the resources that she needed to reach her target grade, Ms Eyituoyo was adamant that her college had done all they could for her.
“I had the library as a quiet area to study after school, I didn’t get any extra tuition but I spoke to my tutours often and they were very supportive, they gave me a lot of encouragement.”
Ms Eyituoyo had foreseen that chemistry could be a difficulty and says that her family enabled her to supplement the resources that her college was able to provide. “I don’t know what happened; my sister even booked me in for a weekend of chemistry revision at Regent’s Park, where I went over the entire syllabus. I had all the resources.”
Ms Eyituoyo did believe, however, that, had she attended a top private school, things might have been very different.
“My family and college were so supportive, but I suppose the extra coaching I would receive at a private school would make a difference. The teachers at those types of schools know the research behind the paper and know the best methods and have sat on the examining board and set exam questions in the past. Although our teachers are very good and have marked exams, they haven’t got the kind of knowledge that comes from that.”
When it comes to the controversy surrounding consistently high pass rates, a figure that has risen for the past 27 years in a row, Ms Eyituoyo lights up with barely suppressed anger.
“Yes, I am aware that the media say A-levels are getting easier. I even read somewhere that monkeys could pass A-levels. Well, you could train a monkey to hold a pen but I doubt you could get one to pass an exam. I don’t think the content has got easier. I think people are getting smarter and that’s why more people are passing. We work so hard, we study and we also have part-time jobs as well. I work for two hours every day after school in a homeless shelter.”
Ms Eyituoyo’s age-group faces a tough economic climate and the articulate 20-year-old is concerned and unsure about how she will fare. “I don’t know what my prospects are. With the economy no one knows what’s going to happen. My economics teacher always said that if you take away one thing from economics the key word is ‘probability’. No one has a clue what’s going to happen.”
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