Changes to Grade Thresholds in New Exams

Changes to Grade Thresholds in New Exams
August 16, 2017
Marilyn Brydges

In January we wrote a blog about the new, tougher GCSEs and A-levels that are in the process of being rolled out over this year and the next couple of years. Recently articles have been published, notably by the Sunday Times, saying that the grade thresholds in these exams have been lowered in order to prevent a significant fall in grades achieved by students receiving results this summer. The mark required to achieve a good grade will be lower than previously expected.

This has been described as the principle of ‘comparable outcomes’, and the rationale behind the lowering of the boundaries is said to be to ensure that this year’s students will not be disadvantaged by sitting the new qualifications, as compared to previous years. Typically when new or significantly altered qualifications are sat for the first time, grades are relatively low as teachers are having to teach the area for the first time and they may not have enough materials and resources, including past papers, to help their students get the highest marks.

The effect of this change to grade thresholds will be to ensure that around the same percentage of students will achieve the top grades of A and A* (in A-level) this year as did the year before – around 25%.

We are sure that there will be those of you who disagree with this change in grade boundaries, perhaps on the basis that it seems to undermine the whole point of the exam reforms. Others will support the change for bringing much-needed security and reassurance for students nervous about taking untested qualifications. Either way, we will be keeping a close eye on the results this year and making sure that all of our A-level and GCSE tuition going forwards is rigorous enough to ensure each student reaches their full potential.