Significant attention has been paid in recent years to student attrition, and rightly so, since rates are rising and need diagnosing. Little attention seems to have been paid to the converse--the successful student. It is widely believed among academics that high school grades--in the UK, A-levels--are poor indicators of final performance, although we persist in using them as entry criteria in the absence of any other index into a student's potential. This study, conducted in parallel in two traditional (pre-1992) UK universities, focuses on one discipline that has peculiar characteristics in intake, student expectation and entry criteria. We confirm some widely held beliefs, and scotch some others. As with all such studies, the number of confounding factors is large, but we draw conclusions where possible that are of relevance to all disciplines, and discuss how we mean to proceed.