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  • Writer's pictureTony

When grades go wrong

Schools are becoming aware that exam grades are not as accurate as they might be.

It is sometimes easy to think that there are just two issues in schools at the moment: the lack of teachers and the rise of the school population.

But there is another that has arisen of late: the accuracy of exam results.

During the summer Ofqual, which oversees public exam boards, published research concerning the accuracy of grades given in GCSE and A-level exam papers across a range of subjects during the past four years.

They found that in English and geography the grades awarded to around 30 per cent of students deviated significantly from the grade that a group of senior examiners would have given for the same exam paper.

In history it was even worse:

about 40 per cent of the grades were inconsistently awarded. In Religious Studies the difference varied across different questions but was still between 30 and 40 per cent.

Not every country is hypnotised by grades in exams - but in Britain we are, and so a student getting a B instead of an A at GCSE can have an impact on whether the student gets a university place or not.

The findings also further highlight the issue of the schools that have been throwing students out after their first year of their A level courses because they were not getting an A or a B in their mock exams. Not only was the practice recently deemed illegal, but there also now seems to be a question mark as to the accuracy of the process. After all, if the exam boards’ appointed examiners can’t mark consistently, it is unlikely that teachers in schools can do this.

Dr William Richardson, a visiting professor of education at Exeter University, stated, “We are pretty sure there are very high levels of inaccurate grading but nobody knows whether that happened to them,” he said.

“It matters hugely if you were under-graded. But the numbers are now released and they are quite large. It is the last biggest most difficult problem.”

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