Exam boards ‘confident’ in maths A-level grades as investigation launched

Exam boards have insisted they are “confident” in the grade boundaries set for A-level maths after Ofqual launched an investigation following “unusual” changes.

Schools Week revealed yesterday that this year’s grade boundaries had been leaked ahead of results day for both the Edexcel and OCR exam boards.

They showed a big shift in grade boundaries for A-level maths, with the score needed to pass at just 14 per cent for the Edexcel paper.

Now Ofqual has said it will investigate why the grade boundaries between this year and last year’s papers were “so different”, adding that the fluctuations in maths was “unusual”.

The exams regulator stressed the investigation will have no bearing on this year’s grade boundaries (which it said were “sound”), and will instead focus on the 2018 exams. It means the marks for potentially several hundred pupils who took the exam last year could be changed as a result of the investigation.

Ofqual said: “We want to understand why the grade boundaries were so different between the two years. We will investigate the full range of evidence from 2018 and 2019 that is now available.”

The regulator said it asked exam boards to look again at last year’s awards before publishing this year’s results, adding none of the exam boards believed there was “compelling evidence to re-open its 2018 award”.

“We will consider each exam board’s decision not to re-open the 2018 awards, taking into account the relative demand of their 2018 and 2019 papers and students’ performance in each year.”

Ofqual’s findings, and any action exams boards should take in response, will be published “at the earliest opportunity”.

This is the first year that all pupils studying A-level maths took the reformed qualification.

Ofqual said that last year fewer than 2,000 of the more able year 12 students sat the new exam a year early.

As a large number of pupils who sat the reformed A-level last year achieved the top grade, with others choosing to retake this year, it means the pool of potential students who could see grades changed as a result of the investigation is thought to be in the several hundreds.

But a spokesperson for JCQ said exam boards are confident the grade boundaries are correct.

In relation to maths, they said: “The grade boundaries were set according to Ofqual’s procedures and approved by them at the time, and students and teachers can be confident in the grade boundaries set.

“Over the last week or so, the awarding bodies have been providing additional and detailed evidence which, on balance, confirms that the grade boundaries in 2018 were set correctly. We will continue to work and cooperate with Ofqual in any review of the grade boundaries.”

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  1. They would say that wouldn’t they? A privatised and marketised school system riddled with perverse, anti-educational incentives is bad enough, but when you privatise the exam boards that then sell their courses on the basis of ‘accessibility’ the inevitable result will be crashing standards covered-up by the perpetrators.