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On 22 April, Ofqual announced a new consultation about GCSE grading. The consultation is mostly about GCSEs which will be first taught from September 2016, and first assessed in June 2018. It proposed that grades 1, 4 and 7 should be awarded in the same way as has been confirmed for the first reformed GCSEs (in English language, English literature and maths) introduced in schools in September 2015 – and described in my December blog below.
However, the big change in the new consultation is for grades 9 and 8. Previously Ofqual has said that the grade 9 for new GCSEs will be awarded to the top 20% of students who get a grade 7 or above in each examination. However, this method could be unfair in subjects which have a high percentage of high ability students, because there are more students competing for the top grade, so the grade 9 boundary would be set relatively high. The new approach set out by Ofqual in the consultation would give a grade 9 to approximately 20% of all GCSE entries, but the percentage of grade 9s awarded in each subject varies, so that subjects with more students getting a grade 7 or above will award more grade 9s. This would apply to all reformed GCSEs, including those which were first taught from 2015, and for first assessment in 2017, in other words, a change to the approach previously announced. According to the new consultation, there is also a change for Grade 8 which would be set midway (in terms of marks on the paper) between the grade 7 and grade 9.
For more information, have a look at the consultation document, and a paper by Tom Benton from Cambridge Assessment about the new approach for grade 9 for the GCSEs coming into schools from September 2016. This is your chance to have your say.
For continuity, the below article was published on 16 December 2015:
The reformed GCSEs will use a new grading structure, using grades from 9 (the highest) to 1 (the lowest). There isn’t a one-to-one mapping between the new numeric grades, and the current A*–G grades, but the two systems will be aligned at key grades:
This new structure means that there are fewer grades for the lower ability ranges: grades 1,2, and 3, compared to grades G, F, E and D. For the mid to high ability range, the new grading structure has more grades available, so that it will be possible to differentiate better between students: grades 4–9 (six grades), compared to C–A* (four grades).
A 'good pass'
The new grade 5, which is roughly the top of the current grade C and the bottom of the current grade B, will be considered to be a ‘good pass’, so students will need to demonstrate a higher level of attainment to achieve a ‘good pass’ than they do at present to achieve a pass (grade C). The standard of grade 5 is similar to the expected standard for similar qualifications taken in high performing countries, such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Tiering in the new GCSEs
GCSEs in mathematics, the sciences and modern foreign languages will continue to be tiered. The foundation tier will target grades 5–1, so that students entered for the foundation tier still have the possibility of achieving a ‘good pass’. The higher tier will target grades 9–4, so grades 4 and 5 will be available on both tiers.
Does this apply to all reformed GCSEs?
Although we are still waiting for final confirmation for GCSE subjects first taught from 2016 onwards (all subjects apart from GCSEs in maths, English language, English literature), we expect this structure to apply to all reformed GCSEs. More information about the New GCSE Grading Structure and other information on the current reforms to qualifications in England can be viewed on Ofqual's website.
Dr Frances Wilson - Principal Researcher
Dr Frances Wilson is the Principal Researcher for OCR’s Research and Technical Standards team, part of the Assessment Standards Team at OCR. Frances and her team carry out valuable research and technical studies to underpin the development and delivery of OCR’s qualifications. OCR is part of Cambridge Assessment which is a department of the University of Cambridge.