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The question A levels

Last week saw a record 94.3% of students pass the A levels they sat this year, with 20% getting A grades.

To what extent can A levels be taken as a serious indication of a school leaver's academic ability?

As an academic indicator it is excellent. But it is the application of the education not the education per se. In my industrial training year I knew people on Master's courses who were inept in the workplace. I know one graduate who obtained a first in American Studies and is now the manager of McDonalds in Wyoming and I am aware of a non graduate who runs the Virgin Group of companies. At the end of the day, it is the person's determination to succeed that is the barometer of their success in whatever they do. Good luck to them all. A levels are only the start of the road not the finish line.

Andrew Worby, 53, solicitor/ civil engineer, Bath I don't think they are getting easier; they are becoming more 'user friendly' and people are selecting A levels that suit them to get onto a course rather than more specific A levels to stand them in good stead in the real world.

My maths and physics A-levels may have helped me get into civil engineering but I'm sure I could have done a lot better at general studies and media studies! On these sort of courses you simply have to show that you have thought about it whereas in maths the answer is either right or wrong.

Alan Swan, 26, principal transport engineer, London I see them now as only the entry ticket into university, where the real academic test begins. Is this the undoing of plans to increase A level grades to enter civil engineering?

Alex Pendleton, 30, package manager, London Perhaps the question should be rephrased 'To what extent can A Levels not be taken as a serious indication of a school leaver's academic ability?' A pass indicates the candidate has shown enough academic ability not to fail. A fail indicates a very low level of academic ability. The grades provide a relative comparison. Why should I query this? More people have passed this year - pat the teachers on the back and say well done. Yes, there are more children passing through the education system. Yes, class numbers are increasing. Yes, it would appear that these things together should produce a decrease in educational standards. But the number and type of resources available to assist students have increased.

More parents are aware of the need for good academic standards and encourage their children to be high achievers.

Glenn Foster, 28, Aylesbury, civil engineer graduate training officer Everyone knows that apart from summers everything in our youth was harder/tougher/meaner/. . .

Let us stop knocking today's youth and start encouraging them.

Charles Beck (retired), Worcestershire I firmly believe that A level grades can be taken as a serious indication of a school leaver's ability to pass A level examinations, although this particular ability is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the quality of potential employees.

Since things in the past were always better, harder, bigger or more chocolatey, it is obvious that current A levels stand no comparison to the real tests of aptitude, resourcefulness and ability to project manage that we (chartered engineers) all sat 10/20/30/40 (delete as appropriate) years ago.

Andria Hubbard, 35, group engineer, Exeter

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