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Further evaluation of summer 2020 awarding

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A levels and GCSEs, Exams, Vocational and technical qualifications

We have today published three evaluation reports looking at how grades were awarded in summer 2020. Taken together, they shine further light on the process of standardisation and on the differences between calculated grades, centre assessment grades and final grades. It is important, not only that we are transparent, but that we learn lessons from this unprecedented year, by drawing on a range of research evidence and evaluation and making that work available to others.

Our Summer 2020 results analysis – GCSE, AS and A level provides an update on the analyses that we published in our interim report on AS/A level results day. Since then, our further analyses for GCSE show - for those interested - the outcomes of the standardisation model and/or centre assessment grades and final grades. Our analysis includes a breakdown of outcomes with centre assessment grades, calculated grades and final grades by centre type. It also shows the number of students getting all grade 9s.

Our report, Standardisation of grades in general qualifications in summer 2020: outliers looks at how we sought to identify students for whom the standardisation model might be unreliable and what we put in place to remedy that. We conclude that a post-results appeal process was essential, so that more evidence could be brought to bear on the grading of these students in combination with the data used in standardisation. This appeals process was not eventually used after centre assessment grades, or calculated grades where they were higher, were issued.

A more technical evaluation, Impact of calculated grades, centre assessment grades and final grades on inter-subject comparability in GCSEs and A levels in 2020, looks at the rank order of overall subject and grade difficulties in statistical terms in 2020 compared to previous years. This analysis shows the interrelationship of grades across different subjects and the extent to which this is different in 2020 compared to previous years. These analyses help to contribute to our understanding of grading in 2020, and will be used to support awarding in 2021. It is clear that it will be necessary to even out the differences in generosity between subjects so as the relationships between subjects is more similar to previous years, to be fairer to students in 2021.

Being transparent is a priority for Ofqual. We have recently published equalities analyses for GCSE and A level, and an analysis of VTQ grades awarded in spring and summer 2020. We have published the computer code that we developed to support GCSE, AS and A level awarding of calculated grades in summer 2020. We have updated our interactive visualisations with the summer results for GCSE, A level and vocational and technical qualifications (VTQ). Our regular publications of official statistics continue.

Looking ahead, we are currently involved in a data-sharing project with the University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS), the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. The project has been set up to give approved researchers greater access to examinations (and wider) data. This will allow further evaluation of the judgements made in awarding grades in summer 2020 and, in this way, we believe that the public can be confident that lessons have been learned from this exceptional year. This work may also be helpful in other ways, such as informing universities’ and colleges’ entrance policy. We will say more about this project shortly.

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