'A' level grades are really just qualifications to get you into University to do your first degree (i.e. your B.Sc). The grade you get here (2:1 or first) determines whether you get on to a postgraduate degree. although some institutions may look at both 'A' level grades and your degree grade it is not really important as your more recent qualifications are a better representation of your academic ability at the time of applying for further study.
Depends what you want to do with them - as far as many professional qualifications are concerned A levels are a much better indicator of success than degree.
As far as degree classifications are concerned - depends largely on the subject and where you did it - the Times Higher this week quotes someone (can't remember who) saying that a 2.1 degree in Particle Physics from University A is worth more than a first in Leisure Management from University B (and I write this as someone who teaches leisure management (among other subjects) - mind you my first degree was in Eocnomics
In theory they shouldn't be that important, but in practice they generally are - thats just my experience though. I didn't do very well in my A-Levels at all and was lucky to get into the university I went to, then went on to get a first class degree. In the last year of my degree I applied for a MA course at a different university and was told not to worry about my A-levels as my degree performance made up for them, however in the interview I was grilled about the discrepancy between my A-level and degree results; I didn't get a place on the course despite having a first when all they required was a 2.2. I think there were other personal reasons for my rejection, but I do think A-levels count - I'm just hoping they won't for my PhD applications.
No it is not fair to judge peoples' academic performance on the basis of their A level results. It's snobbery for one. I never did A levels and I manage. I did a GNVQ (generally not very qualified) and I've managed fine. You also find that mature learners that enter university based on access courses do extremely well in their degrees.
I left my not very impressive state school (which is now in special measures) with 2 A level's and 1 A/S level. At the time I went there the sixth form sent around 40 people (out of 100) to university - which was good, but often many went to very low ranking universities and choose courses that were not perhaps best choices. The staff "sold" degrees as a way to get a good job, which we wanted. So I would say that most - including me - picked our undergraduate degrees from a not very informed position.
I have never thought about my A levels every again really and nobody has ever asked about them on an academic application form post undergrad. I don't even know what my close friends or boyfriend got for their A levels! Mine weren't that bad (one A and two Cs) but equally nowhere near reflect where I am now. I developed and changed so much post A level that I really was a "late academic bloomer". If I am to be judged by my A levels, then is is akin to comparing the 20 something adult to the 17 year old child I was when I took them - hardly fair or accurate.
A levels are not a good indicator of future achievement in my opinion - though they may give recruiters and universities a certain sort of "risk assessment". I know that there are certain paths where they do matter though. Even if one gets a 2.1 or 1.1 from a good redbrick and wants to apply to a graduate recruitment post at a big firm like Deloitte or Acenture etc - they will need 3 or perhaps 4 a levels at A and B grade. These must also have been taken at the same time, so no repeats aloud. There types of career paths clearly think that A level grades matter to a degree for screening purposes.
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