This year has seen the third year of the new 9-1 GCSEs for English & Maths, and the second year for most other subjects. Ofqual said that the first year of the new GCSEs would have Grade Boundaries that would be slightly lower to account for the expected challenges and resulting impact related to delivering a new course. In the second year, we were warned the boundaries would rise. So, what happened to the Grade Boundaries between June 2018 and 2019? And what does it mean for teachers?
We’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding the grade boundaries that subject areas and schools should be using: 2018 + 5%? 2018 + 10%? Boundaries from different subject areas?
We wanted to write this blog about what we’ve been recommending and why, not only to share our suggestions but also to explain the methodology behind our theory.
As we shared in our previous article Predicting the Impossible, there is a logical process that has informed our recommendations, and we’ve come to what we feel is a sensible, informed decision on the boundaries that should and shouldn’t be used. Part of our recommendation is made up of statistical evidence and analysis, and the other part from considering the psychology of target setting and attainment on both teachers and pupils.
Life without boundaries
With the announcement of the change to 9-1 exams, the exam boards announced a change in grade boundaries that left many teachers across the country feeling perplexed. This was largely because the exam boards and Ofqual said it wasn't possible to predict. We understood teachers’ frustrations with the exam boards & Ofqual not releasing any grade boundaries. They said it was not possible to predict a reasonable range or provide any specimen & practice papers.
Some exam boards have scaling factors for the 9-1 GCSEs and A-levels. Those specifications that use Scaling Factors have clearly stated them at the end of the assessment section in the specifications. They change the weighting of the marks achieved in exam units and therefore affect the final grade students achieve.
As you can imagine, pupil progress has received a lot of questions relating to grade boundaries for the new 9-1 GCSEs, including how we are providing grade boundaries. For English and Maths, the wait is over, as there are actual grade boundaries from this year’s exams to refer to. For other subjects, there is no way of predicting accurately where the grade boundaries will sit. At this stage, we can only make an informed guess based on the information that Ofqual and Dfe have published.