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Unitised and linear qualification grades are calculated in different ways. We've provided some more information below:
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Unitised qualifications are designed to be taken in chunks, or units, throughout the course. Marks (and unit grades) are accumulated along the way, and when all the required units have been taken, an overall grade is issued. Since exam papers can vary in difficulty from one series to the next, a common scale is used (called the uniform mark scale or UMS) to ensure marks gained on an easier paper do not advantage candidates compared with those who gain marks on a harder paper.
Sally and Peter both sat an A Level Humanities unit, but in different years.
There are four, equally weighted units needed to achieve the qualification. Both papers are marked out of 80 and both students score 61. But, as Sally's exam included more complex questions than Peter's, the grade boundary for achieving an A grade is set at 61. Peter's exam was relatively straightforward and the A boundary is set at 64.
Therefore, for this unit, Sally achieves an A and Peter achieves a B. Their marks are converted to UMS (out of a maximum of 80) as shown below.
Peter therefore has 61 raw marks with the A boundary for his unit set at 64. When this is converted into UMS, he has 60 uniform marks.
Sally also has 61 raw marks with the A boundary for her unit set at 61. When this is converted into UMS, she has 64 uniform marks.
The grade of the overall qualification is calculated by adding together the uniform marks achieved in the individual units. This gives candidates a final uniform mark which is compared against the overall UMS grade boundaries.
For unitised qualifications, both the unit uniform marks and grades, and the final uniform mark and grade are given on the results slip.
Linear qualifications are designed to be taught continuously over the length of the course (typically two years for GCSE or A Level), and all the assessment takes place at the end of the course. As they are not broken down into chunks, linear courses give more scope for teaching and assessing across topics, and drawing topics and ideas together.
Since candidates take all the assessed components of a linear qualification at the end of the course, there’s no need to combine marks from assessments on different occasions so there’s also no need for UMS marks to be used. Marks for all the components taken by the candidates are just added together (allowing in some cases for weighting of certain components) in order to get the candidate’s total mark. And it is this total mark that will determine the candidate’s grade – the candidate will not receive UMS marks, because in linear qualifications they don’t exist.