Share this page

Students' views of stretch and challenge in A-level examinations

By Jo-Anne Baird, Suzanne Chamberlain, Michelle Meadows, Lucy Royal-Dawson, Rachel Taylor


Claims that A-levels do not stretch the brightest students have dogged the education system in England in recent years. Part of the Government response to this has been to introduce a policy of ‘stretch and challenge’, which features different question styles in new A-level examination papers. The questions are not intended to produce more difficult A-level examinations overall, but to foster more engagement, broader thinking and higher order skills in students. Teaching-to-the-test, narrow and formulaic approaches are intended to be circumvented by the new-style examinations. QCA produced guidance for the Awarding Bodies on how to implement stretch and challenge in question paper design.
This research focussed upon that implementation, in A-level psychology and biology specimen question papers from all three English Awarding Bodies. Previous research literature did not provide a firm evidential basis for examiners to predict how demanding a question is, nor is there evidence to suggest that examiners are good at judging question difficulty. Worryingly, previous research indicated that students could be de-motivated by challenging examination questions.

How to cite

Baird, J., Chamberlain, S., Meadows, M., Royal-Dawson, L. and Taylor, R. (2009). Students’ views of stretch and challenge in A-level examinations. University of Bristol and AQA Centre for Education Research and Policy.


Connect with us

Contact our team

Join us

Work with us to advance education and enable students and teachers to reach their potential.

Apply now