As the exam season closes, I thought it would be helpful once again to set out how we are regulating the awarding of GCSEs, IGCSEsi , AS and A levels.
Changes to qualifications
There are relatively few changes to the qualifications this summer compared to recent years, with just two to mention. First, whereas some of the previous GCSE English Literature and history syllabuses allowed for a narrower range of content to be studied, they now all require study of the full curriculum. Students have been examined on the new specifications for the first time this summer.
Second, we have required some changes to A level French, German and Spanish assessments in response to research we undertook in 2014. This should make the papers – through the questions and/or mark schemes – more effective at discriminating between students, particularly the most able.
Schools can of course expect some variation in results from one year to the next, even when qualifications don’t change. If you are interested in finding our more, we have previously published data to show how schools’ results vary over time, and more recently, Cambridge Assessment published some analysis showing that even when there is little variation in results at a subject level, there can be much greater variation at individual school level.
Our approach to summer 2015
As in previous years, exam boards will use data from the entire cohort’s performance in earlier exams or tests to predict how they will perform as a group in this summer’s exams. If this year’s cohort is similar, in terms of ability, to last year’s cohort, then we would expect overall results to be similar. For AS and A level, exam boards will use predictions based on students’ prior achievement at GCSE, and for GCSE they will use predictions based on students’ prior achievement at Key Stage 2. Key Stage 2 data for the cohort is also one of the pieces of evidence used by exam boards awarding IGCSEs.
GCSE predictions will be based on students’ Key Stage 2 data from 2010, a year when about a quarter of schools did not take part in the tests. However, research by the exam boards shows virtually no difference in the results achieved compared to predictions, between those schools who did take the tests in 2010 and those that did not, so we can be confident that the predictions to be used this summer are sufficiently reliable, as in previous years.
Our approach to monitoring awarding will be the same as in recent years. I should say that we have emphasised to the boards that we do not expect the percentage of students achieving A* in A level French, German and Spanish to be lower than boards’ predictions, unless there is compelling evidence for that.
While there are relatively few changes to qualifications this summer, there are some changes in entry patterns at GCSE. In particular the number of students entering GCSE English or English language has fallen when compared to last year, while the number of students entering IGCSE English language has risen. There are similar, but less sizeable moves, in some other subjects, including maths and English literature.
These changes mean that, at qualification level, results may look a little different, when compared to last year. The students moving from one qualification to another are not necessarily a representative sample of the whole cohort, and so these moves can affect the profile of results for each qualification, as standards are maintained.
I do hope you find this information helpful. We will be publishing updates detailing how we are overseeing awarding this summer on our website.
i When we refer to IGCSEs, we are including Level 1/2 Certificates which are commonly known as IGCSEs.