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Background:

I left school age 18 with good grades in the usual exams (A-levels, and GCSEs before that, for those familiar with the UK style system). Most of my peers opted to go to a standard University, however I started work full time and studied a degree, and eventually a Masters degree after that, with the Open University (distance learning). There were various reasons for that but primarily the chance to get on with career-type work while studying and avoid the debts. I still completed the degree in the usual 3 years.

It's now around 10 years later and I have those 10 years of career relevant work history with increasingly 'senior' positions and more responsibility that goes with that.

I work in a field where background checks, professional integrity, being trustworthy etc are very important (I know those are important in a lot of roles, but some more than others!) due to the high levels of system access and responsibility involved in the role. (Not sure if this is relevant!)

I am now updating my CV again ready for 'other opportunities'.

My question:

The usual advice I hear is to leave out "school" (age 16-18) accomplishments from a CV once they have been 'superseded' by a degree and/or years of professional experience.

However, because my degrees were done through a channel more often taken by people who - for whatever reason - didn't do the 'conventional' route e.g. had children quite young, didn't get the required exam grades to get into university, 'dropped out', etc etc... I don't fit that profile and did actually follow that 'conventional' route except with the choice of university.

Should I include the "school" (A-levels) qualifications on a CV because of the points above?

Is there any language I can use on a CV to spin the above (e.g. completing it in 3 years whilst also working full time) - I can talk about this appropriately in an interview, but struggling what/whether to put in writing on the CV to get to the interview stage.

  • Late to the party but OU is a as valid of an educational institute as a brick-and-mortar uni. – Jay Gould Feb 13 at 14:29
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I would not expect to find A-levels or GCSE grades in the CV of somebody who has 10 years of experience, let alone if he has a master degree as well. I don't think it would hurt either. As somebody who evaluates CVs and interviews candidates, I'd skip over these details unless I were hiring an apprentice.

If you believe that having attended the Open University may lead people to misjudge you, you may add a few lines to your presentation letter, to justify your decision to attend a distance learning university while working, rather than choosing the more traditional route. I think this would be much more effective than adding A-levels grades to your CV.

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I would (and did) keep them, but summarize them. The more time passes, the more you should summarize.

How about

8 GCSEs, including Maths & 2 foreign languages*
3 A-Levels, including Physics*

Then go into more detail for your degrees.

*Adjust to suit your field

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With 10 years of relevant work experience and Masters, the only reason I would include any A levels or GCSE's if it was specifically mentioned in the role/job/person specification - eg if the criteria included 'Maths at A level standard' or 'English C+ at GCSE'

Even then I would probably only mention that I met the subject criteria in the general blurb where I would talk about how I met the other criteria - rather than listing all grades+subjects in a block.

I only say this as sometimes Maths / English at GCSE or A-level can sometimes go towards indicating literacy/numeracy/communication skill, especially if the Degree/Masters are in other subjects. (Remember they may be expecting other candidates to apply that don't have the experience / masters)

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"The usual advice I hear is to leave out "school" (age 16-18) accomplishments from a CV once they have been 'superseded' by a degree and/or years of professional experience."

Correct. You now have a Masters degree and 10 yeas work experience. An A-Level, whether it's in Astrophysics or Gender Studies, has no bearing on you or the position you're looking for.

For me, the CV is a list of "What you've done", and the cover letter (and parts of the interview) are there to explain "Why you did it".

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    Are you sure I have never had a recruiter in the UK suggest I leave out those. – Neuromancer Feb 9 at 21:51
  • Most job positions I've ever seen still ask for GCSE maths & english (But don't really care about the rest). I'd recommend keeping them in, but otherwise I'd just group them (like Justin did below). I believe this is more common in larger corporations/public sector though, as I'm seeing it less in job postings for SMB's – iamgory Feb 13 at 10:38
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I applied for a placement, as a University student for after the 2nd year, without my A-level grades. I believe I've listed them but did not put the grades down.

If the company is interested in you but wants to know the grades, they will contact you for them regardless. I've had two companies message me to get the grades after receiving my CV without them, one of them offered me an interview and then a placement. In fact, a very key company in processor field gave me an online interview before rejecting without my A-level grades on my CV. In my opinion, it's all about your cover letter.

While my A-levels were a good fit for my future and looked like clever choices, family issues and long travel time to school led me to be not-so-successful in them. I will omit them in my future CVs as well as it looks to not be that important; I think you have more reasons than me to omit, like the 10 years of experience, so I suggest you go ahead.

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I totally agree with the others - After 10 years? Seriously? Drop the school stuff - 100%. No one cares about your 'O' levels.

But, if you are unconvinced, why not stand it on its head?

When was the last time you saw O levels on a CV for other than entrant positions? In fact, on any CV form someone who had a higher qualification?

If you saw them on a senior applicant's CV, would you not find it strange? Bizarre would be my personal view.

Finally, stop belittling yourself. A degree from the O.U is just as "good" as one from any other UK university (leaving out any discussion of Oxbridge).

Personally, if I were interviewing you, I would not really consider your degree after 10 years. How much of it can you still remember? How much is still relevant?

I spent 3 years on a non-O.U comp. sci. degree and found on my first day at work that, other than learning how to program, I had wasted three years.

Experience is what counts, with more recent experience being more heavily weighted.

Stop worrying, be proud of your degree, but stress your working experience.

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