New research shows freshers struggle to remember basic A-level concepts

Jun 25, 2014

University freshers struggle to remember basic concepts from their A-level studies according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

A new report published today shows that even grade-A could only remember 40 per cent of their A-Level syllabus by the first week of term at university.

Researchers tested nearly 600 students in their first week of term at five universities – three of which were in the prestigious Russell Group.

It is hoped that the findings will assist the re-design of A-Levels to make them more relevant to higher education. The results could also prove useful for designing undergraduate courses which are more student-focused.

Lead researcher Dr Harriet Jones, from UEA's School of Biological Sciences, said: "This is the first research carried out in collaboration with an exam board to investigate how much information is lost between students sitting their A-Levels and arriving at university three months later. We found that students had forgotten around 60 per cent of everything they learned for their A-Levels.

"Universities expect their students to arrive with a high level of knowledge. What our research shows is that students are arriving at university with fantastic A-Level grades, but having forgotten much of what they actually learned for their exams.

"This is undoubtedly a problem caused by secondary schools gearing all of their teaching towards students doing well in exams, in order to achieve league-table success. But cramming facts for an exam doesn't give students a lasting knowledge of their subject."

Researchers tested 594 first year bioscience students in their first week of term at five universities – the University of Birmingham, the University of Bristol, Cardiff University, the University of Leicester and UEA. Almost all of the students had achieved a grade A at A-Level.

They were given 50 minutes to answer 38 multiple choice questions on cells, genetics, biochemistry and physiology – all of which had been part of their A-Level core syllabus.

The students managed to answer an average of 40 per cent of questions correctly. The longer the amount of time between sitting A-Levels and starting university also correlated with poorer results. Students who scored lower than an A grade at A-Level retained the least knowledge.

"School and university have very different demands. In , students cannot rely solely on memorising information so it is important that students can adapt to a more in-depth approach to learning."

'Indications of knowledge retention in the transition to Higher Education' is published in the journal Journal of Biological Education on June 25.

Explore further: Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

Apr 21, 2014

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

Oct 23, 2014

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

Oct 23, 2014

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

Oct 23, 2014

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

User comments : 0