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Changes to English GCSE grade boundaries 'ordered by Ofqual'

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  • View Poll Results: Should English GCSE students get their English exams regraded?
    Yes
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    No
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    It has emerged that exams regulator Ofqual requested last-minute changes to GCSE grade boundaries in order to manage the number of students achieving grade C and higher in this year's English exams.

    Reported by the BBC this morning...
    England's exams watchdog told a board to change English GCSE grade boundaries against its will two weeks before this summer's results, it has emerged.

    Letters leaked to the Times Educational Supplement show Ofqual ordered exam board Edexcel to make changes beyond what "might normally be required".


    According to the letters, which were leaked to the Times Educational Supplement, a significantly higher-than-expected proportion of students (around 8% more) originally achieved grade C or higher, prompting Ofqual to request results that were "closer to the predictions". Eventually, the proportion of students achieving grades A*-C in English literature and English language exams fell below the levels set in 2011. Headteachers have said tough marking has resulted in hundreds of pupils missing out on a grade C in English.

    Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, is calling for a full independent inquiry into the GCSE grading row. He said:
    "This latest revelation suggests that Ofqual did pressure at least one exam board to overturn their grades and treat pupils more harshly in June than in January. That simply is not fair. It seems to contradict what Ofqual said in its inquiry report that exam boards had set June's grade boundaries correctly ‘using their best professional judgement’."

    MPs are this morning questioning Ofqual executives about the GCSE grading controversy.

    Meanwhile, several hundred pupils in Wales are now expected to receive higher GCSE English grades after education minister Leighton Andrews demanded their papers be regraded. However Education Secretary Michael Gove has previously refused to intervene on the behalf of English GCSE students, telling MPs it was up to Ofqual to uphold standards on marking and grades.

    What do you think? Do English GCSE students also deserve to have their papers regraded? What should be done to ensure this doesn't happen again?
    Attached Files
  1. File Type: pdf Ofqual_Edexcel_Documents_2012.pdf (205.4 KB, 170 views)
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    Are grade boundaries decided on the basis of how well people do, or are they just independently set based on how hard the exam is? If it's the latter, they should be decided before people sit the exam and no changes can be made afterwards, therefore people know that what they're getting is what they get - there's been no meddling at the last minute.

    If Ofqual and all the exam boards want fewer people getting good grades, why don't they pull their trousers up and make exams harder, rather than making it the fault of the pupils - "too many pupils got C grades because grade boundaries are slack", NO, "we didn't make the exams hard enough so it's too easy for students to get C grades" - that's the awful thing is that it's their fault but there's a definite hint of blaming students for doing well rather than admitting their own failings in some of the newspaper articles.

    (I'm not saying it is easy for students to get C grades, but if they want fewer people getting Cs and above, surely what you do is you wait until the next set of exams and you make the papers harder, rather than thinking "ooh, people sat their exams a couple of weeks ago, we'll tighten those grade boundaries and Joe Public will think it's wonderful that the rate of GCSE passes are going down!" )
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    The biggest shock for me about all this is that the exam boards and Ofqual set the number of people they expect to get a grade C before the exam based upon exams sat 5 years earlier and then expect there to be little difference from that measure.

    Where is the allowance for significantly improved teaching or significantly more work from the students. There method allows individuals to improve their performance, but not the whole year group. It's as if a year groups future success is being set 5 years before they sit their GCSEs with limits being places on what how many people can get certain grades regardless of how well the whole year group performs when it comes to the exam.
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    At Christmas I was told my coursework was at least C standard if not B standard, so I left it at that and focused on my exams.

    In my three module exams I got AAB but in my coursework I got a D, overall I got 207/300 giving me a C. I was 3 marks off a B and although I had what I needed for Uni I still feel really disappointed, I feel like I was robbed.
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    The decision must be made - is GCSE English an exam to ensure students have reached the required standard to communicate effectively in the workplace and throughout life or is it an elitist exam to sort students into groups? I think it should be the former. If you have got the required marks, then you have earned a C grade, regardless of how your peers did.
    As students will not be leaving school until they are 18 in the future, I see little point in making GCSEs like O levels. Yes, if the GCSE syllabus is not providing the necessary skills it should be amended. However, playing with the grade boundaries within the same year is unacceptable. Students in the same year will be disadvantaged if they are not from Wales (where papers are being remarked) or simply because their teacher sent in the coursework in June rather than January.
    Continually moving the goalposts will not help students, teachers or indeed markers and makes consistency much harder to achieve. So, I consider that the exam boards need to make this decision and quickly. Surely we should be striving for a well-educated population? What happens to students who should have got a C who now have Ds? That hinders sixth form places, jobs and for those who cannot afford to retake the exam, stagnates opportunities.
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    I find it odd how I got A*s in all my coursework/previous exams but I got a D in the exam which is receiving a lot of controversy, which made me end up with a B overall.

    Very annoyed, I (and thousands of others) was robbed.
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    WAIT is it just the welsh exam board who had to regrade and fiddle around with the results or all the exam boards?? I got a B overall for my English lang and now im scared i could go down which will have massive implications on my future studies it doesn't seem fair!
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    I think they should be checking the out the OCR GCSE Maths grade boundaries. The average for an A* in first two units (50%) was around 65%. Come the summer exam (50%), this was moved up to 91%! Clearly they sought to reduce or cap the number achieving certain grades.
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    (Original post by Obsidian)
    r will be disadvantaged if they are not from Wales (where papers are being remarked)
    If the issue is that the standards have been set too high, how would remarks help?


    (Original post by Obsidian)
    However, playing with the grade boundaries within the same year is unacceptable.
    Happens all the time. That's why the grade boundaries are set for each specific paper (i.e. June 2012 english unit 1) rather than each specific module (i.e. english unit 1) - to allow the bonudaries to be changed if the paper was found easer or harder than normal.
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    Is anyone truly surprised though.

    Dishonest politicians and dodgy 'independent' regulators. Not surprised in the least.
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    I got 9A's 3 B's and 1C , I did pretty well but i feel angry for all the people who have been cheated out of a smooth transition into further education or employment. Ofqual and Michael Gove are simply robbing the chance of a good life from 16 year olds just so that the people who do pass their GCSEs have the chance to live even better lives. Again the system is unintentionally creating a bias towards the children of rich families who have the disposable income to allow their children to repeat their GCSES until they get the grades required to be a cigar smoking toff.
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    (Original post by When you see it...)
    If the issue is that the standards have been set too high, how would remarks help?


    Happens all the time. That's why the grade boundaries are set for each specific paper (i.e. June 2012 english unit 1) rather than each specific module (i.e. english unit 1) - to allow the bonudaries to be changed if the paper was found easer or harder than normal.
    It would show if the change has been down to wide-spread marking issues or, as we suspect, dramatically changing grade boundaries. Ideally, I would like to see an external review into how the grade boundaries were actually set and the paper itself.

    This article really concerns me:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/...ised-by-ofqual


    Yes, there is adjustment between the unit papers; no paper can be exactly the same as another. However, if pressure was applied to bring C grades down after marking papers and realising how many there were, it is surely wrong. Students' grades are completely taken out of their hands and it becomes an absolute nightmare for teachers who will have to attempt to convince next year's cohort that the same will not happen again, organise re-sits and support those who ought to have got the grades they deserve.
    The 'adjustment' within this paper, if it was merely an ordinary adjustment, would mean that the January paper was significantly easier than the June paper which would cast doubts about how the papers were set in the first place.

    The cynical side of my thinks that the exam boards will benefit from the extra funds generated by re-sits but we may never know.
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    Whether or not you think the grading system is flawed or not and I do understand it has to be changed in some respect, but changing the grade boundaries after students have started preparing for the exam is completely unfair and unacceptable. Changing boundaries in advance or at the start of the academic year would have been more acceptable This isn't some mock test, it's their GCSEs which will stick with them for the rest of their life unless they resit at another college. If all the controversy proves to be completely correct (and I think it will) then this year's GCSE students are the victims of political football. I think it's wrong to mess around with students grades just to make a political point, it's people's future career prospects that this affecting
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    I finished my English language before the may and June exams started and I was told by my english teacher that using last years grade boundaries I would of got a solid B grade, however, I got a grade C. I've been told this has happened across the board in my school,people were told they got an A in their english language but got a B grade e.c.t. If the grade boundaries are changed will it just be for the summer exams, or will it be the final GCSE grade boundary ?
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    The exam board shouldn't have changed the grade boundaries between January and June. They should remark them all for free. English GCSE is a vital step to get a job, the marking should be fair!
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    (Original post by Nesselphie)
    The exam board shouldn't have changed the grade boundaries between January and June. They should remark them all for free. English GCSE is a vital step to get a job, the marking should be fair!
    Agreed
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    I find it truly shocking that the people in charge of our education system look like they have no clue at the impact their decisions cans have on the lives of so many people.
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    For GCSE English Language, in my mocks beforehand I was consistently at a high A/A*.
    Now, for the real thing I got a B.

    I answered everything in the same style as always, and I thought my creative pieces were better than my mocks.
    I thought they were effective when I read them back!

    Very strange indeed. Luckily, my coursework saved me and I got an A overall!
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    So did this only affect edexcel, because I did AQA English language and literature.

    Besides the point, I honestly do feel sorry for those who were deprived of their rightful grades because if people worked hard for a C, you don't just make it a D because you can. That's the problem with this system, you never really know what's happening behind the scene.
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    I've seen various newspaper articles claiming this is an outcry from the left-wing. Well, I'm sorry, what political spectrum you prefer is irrelevant. This is about fairness for all, but also about having faith in frankly, an examination system which is being let down by our own regulators and boards.

    How can anyone sit here and justify changing the goalposts mid-way through the year thanks to generous marking in the winter sitting? That's nobody's fault but the examiners, and thus, people sitting in the summer should not be penalised. This doesn't just affect those at a C/D borderline, those at A/B and B/C are also affected, although that's less televised as it's not as important.

    The incompetence this year in the marking has been quite ridiculous, and I'll be very surprised if re-mark requests, access to scripts and other post-results services haven't rocketed.

    I've just recently sent one of my history papers back to OCR, one of the country's worst offenders for marking, because of a 17-mark discrepancy on my paper, of which, the actual mark, appears not to equal to the UMS I received.

    Let's hope the Government and examination boards get their act together and sort out this shambles. Michael Gove and the Head of Ofqual should be out of a job.


    (Original post by mynameisntbobk)
    So did this only affect edexcel, because I did AQA English language and literature.

    Besides the point, I honestly do feel sorry for those who were deprived of their rightful grades because if people worked hard for a C, you don't just make it a D because you can. That's the problem with this system, you never really know what's happening behind the scene.
    All boards are affected, it's just the letter leaked emphasises pressure on a specific board. The Welsh Education Minister has just today ordered the WJEC exam board to change Welsh pupils' grades within seven days, but English students on the same board might not be treated the same.

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