Ofqual launches subject comparability consultation

Differences in the difficulty of GCSE and A level subjects are being reviewed by Ofqual as it seeks to address the “issue” of comparability across exams.

The watchdog has published six working papers, a video and an infographic aimed at exploring options for ensuring exam grades are comparable across subjects.

Four policy options have been set out by the regulator on which it wants to hear the views of the education sector.

Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said it was expected that GCSEs from one exam board should be “as demanding as one from another exam board in the same subject, and as those from previous years”, but that harmonising grades across different subjects was “another issue”.

Glenys Stacey
Glenys Stacey

She said: “Many people would initially expect that all GCSEs should be of the same level, and the same for A levels.

“And in a very broad sense this is true: they are all set at the same general educational level and need similar amounts of teaching and learning time.

“But when you look closely there are many factors, mostly external, to consider. Is the student’s flair for the subject taken into account and ultimately should you be able to, or even want to, compare say, chemistry and art, or chemists and artists?”

The options presented by Ofqual include taking changing the awarding process so that different numbers of top grades are given relative to a subject’s difficulty.

The six working papers are available here…

Comparability of Different GCSE and A level Subjects in England: An introduction

Inter-Subject Comparability: A Review of the Technical Literature

Inter-Subject Comparability of Examination Standards in GCSE and GCE

Inter-Subject Comparability: An International Review

A Recent History of Regulatory Perspectives on Inter-Subject Comparability in England

Exploring Implications of Policy Options Concerning Inter-Subject Comparability


People can submit their views here.


And here is the video.


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