2019 GCSE grade boundary leaks and hoaxes - what's it all about?

Students taking exam

Get prepared for GCSE results day 2019

Very soon, everyone who sat GCSE exams this summer will have their results. In the meantime, we can only guess at what grades results day may bring.

One way to make that guess a bit more educated is to check TSR’s unofficial markschemes. Here you can see the answers from this year’s exams, as compiled by the TSR community.

Another way is to check each exam board’s grade boundaries. Only trouble is, the grade boundaries for 2019 get released on the same day as the results themselves. At least, that’s the idea.

Grade boundaries actually get leaked quite a lot. This tends to happen the day before results day, when boundaries are made available to exam officers in schools and colleges. Before you know it, they’re getting pinged around the internet.

So how important are grade boundaries really? And how can you tell if leaked grade boundaries are real? Here’s a quick guide.

What are grade boundaries and where can I find them?

Grade boundaries are the number of marks you need to achieve a particular grade. They’re freely available on exam board websites – covering exams taken up to 2018.

When are grade boundaries for 2019 released?

Grade boundaries are released to exams officers in schools and colleges the day before results are released. They need access to the grade boundaries to help plan for the release of results. The grade boundaries are made available in a secure part of the exam board website where a special login is required.

So how do leaks and hoaxes happen?

There are thousands of schools and in each there may be many members of staff who have access to the secure login. Only one is needed to ‘leak’ the files with the grade boundaries. And as for making a hoax set of grade boundaries – you just need a previous year’s and Photoshop.

Do leaks and hoaxes matter?

Grade boundary ‘leaks’ are no where near as important as leaks of exam papers. They are not that sensitive because they don’t give anyone an unfair advantage. In fact, grade boundaries used to be freely available to anyone on the day before results. The decision to delay their public release was taken because it was felt that they were worrying students unnecessarily.

The problem is that not having them makes students worry even more.

How do I know if a 'leak' is real?

If it’s on TSR, our community will evaluate it very quickly. On other social platforms – probably not.

Should I actually be concerned about grade boundaries?

Each year TSR users discuss GCSE and A-level grade boundaries pretty extensively – especially in maths. There’s a feeling that the lower the grade boundaries, the easier it will be to achieve a high grade.

But is that true?

Grade boundaries do change a little from year to year. This is to take account of the level of difficulty of the exam that year. They may move up slightly if an exam is easier and down if it’s trickier than the year before.

That means that the standard required to get any particular grade will stay the same – that’s the aim of the exam system. The year you sit an exam should make no difference to the standard of work required to achieve any particular grade.

So where grade boundaries are set shouldn’t make any difference to your chances as the standards shouldn’t change.

That means there's no need to worry about grade boundaries.

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