GCSE students are furious with Edexcel after maths grade boundaries rocket

maths student stressed out

Foundation-level maths students needed 62% to get a grade 4 pass

Angry maths students have rounded on exam board Edexcel after grade boundaries for foundation maths went up massively this year.

Students taking the maths foundation papers needed a mark of more than 62% to achieve a standard pass 4 grade. 

To achieve a 5 grade - a so-called 'strong' pass and the highest available to students taking the foundation papers - a mark of more than 76% was required.

Huge increase in grade boundaries

Grade boundaries for all exams shift every year, but the level of change in Edexcel's maths foundation boundaries is unusually high. 

In 2018, students needed to get 136 marks from a possible 240 (56.7%) to get a grade 4. This year, an additional 13 marks were needed, with the boundary shifted to 149/240 (62.1%).

Last year, the strong pass mark boundary was set at 169/240 (70.4%). But for 2019's students, a mark of 184/240 (76.7%) was required.

Other exam boards had boundaries that remained more consistent. 

For GCSE students taking AQA foundation maths, 125/240 (52.1%) was needed to achive a grade 4 in 2018. This year, that requirement fell marginally to 122/240 (50.8%).

OCR's maths foundation grade boundary also fell. It required 146/300 (48.7%) for a grade 4 in 2018. This year, the boundary was set at 144/300 (48%) in 2019. 

Students stunned

On Twitter, students and parents expressed their shock at how much the grade boundaries had jumped. 

Higher tier comparisons

Others questioned how the grade boundaries between the foundation and higher tiers could be so different.

Foundation tier students are tested on a different specification to higher tier students, with the aim being "that it is no more or less difficult to achieve the same grade on different tiers," according to exam board regulator Ofqual.

However, students who took Edexcel's higher tier papers this year could achieve a grade 4 with an overall mark of 52/240 (21.6%).

For some people, targeting a pass mark of just over 20% on a harder paper seems to be a better strategy than trying to get more than 60% on an 'easier' paper.

"Grade boundaries often change a little to reflect the level of difficulty of the exams that year. But this change is unusually large." says The Student Room's study help director Pete Langley.

"It must be pretty disheartening when you get the right answers to over 60% of questions and still don’t pass. Despite this, students should feel reassured that the actual standard of work needed for a grade 4 hasn’t changed, it’s just that the foundation exams were a bit easier this year."

The Student Room has contacted Pearson, the company that owns Edexcel, for comment.

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