Ofqual's 2017 exam survey: the main findings

Fewer people understand how GCSEs work since the new 9 to 1 grading system came in.

The exams regulator Ofqual has published the results of its annual survey on perceptions of A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications in England.

The online study, conducted between October 24 and December 1 took opinions from almost 3,000 heads, teachers, parents, pupils, universities, employers and members of the public at large.

It aimed to assess respondents’ impressions of the exam system and their levels of confidence in GCSEs, AS and A-levels, and applied general qualifications.

Here are the main findings…

1. Fewer people understand GCSEs

Last year’s survey found that 62 per cent of respondents felt GCSEs are well understood, compared with 70 per cent in 2016.

Last summer was the first time the new 9 to 1 grading system was used, in three exams: English language, English literature and maths.

The system will be applied to a wider range of subjects in the results issued in summer this year.

2. Pupils’ confidence in GCSEs and A-levels has decreased

Between 2016 and 2017, confidence in the exams remained stable for all stakeholder groups expect young people, whose confidence decreased for both GCSEs and AS/A-levels.

Fewer young people think GCSE standards were maintained in 2017 too, with the proportion falling from 46 per cent to 35 per cent.

3. Employers don’t get the new grades, but nor do some teachers

36 per cent of employers who responded to the survey are not aware that 9 is now the top GCSE grade.

23 per cent of employers said they thought 1 is the best GCSE grade that students can get now, while a further 13 per cent said they didn’t know at all.

Among parents, 16 per cent thought 1 is the top grade and 11 per cent do not know.

Even six per cent of teachers said they thought 1 was the highest grade at GCSE, though 100 per cent of heads got the question correct.

4. Confusion over malpractice

Nine in 10 teachers and heads know who to report an incident of malpractice to for GCSEs and AS/A levels

The majority of heads and teachers (86 per cent) said they had adequate information about what constitutes malpractice, and 57 per cent of heads and teachers are confident malpractice is properly reported when it happens in GCSEs and AS/A-levels.

5. Not enough support for pupils needing extra help

Over a quarter of heads and teachers feel they don’t have enough information about how to support pupils who are eligible for special consideration.

Seventy-four per cent said they had adequate information about the arrangements that are available for a GCSE, AS, or A-level student who is eligible for special consideration, meaning their marks or grade may be adjusted after the test to take into account illness, injury or some other event outside of their control.

6. Marking and moderation services lose their appeal

Less than half of survey respondents knew that services exist to manage appeals or queries about marking and moderation.

42 per cent are aware that there is a review of marking, moderation and appeals service for GCSE and AS/A-level results.

Of those aware of the service, 42 per cent agreed that the review of marking, moderation and appeals system was fair.