Lower grade boundaries for maths GCSE resit exam spark concern

GCSE maths resits

Pupils collected their GCSE maths and English resit results from schools last week

Concerns have been raised after new data showed that pupils needed as little as 13 per cent of marks in a higher-tier maths GCSE paper to achieve a “standard pass” in their resits last term.

The grade boundaries for a “standard pass” – a grade 4 in the new higher tier maths GCSE paper – have all dropped from last summer for the three major exam boards.

In Edexcel’s higher mathematics GCSE paper, a pass would have been achieved with 13 per cent of the overall marks in November – compared to 17 per cent in the summer.

Meanwhile, pupils who took the higher maths GCSE paper for AQA needed 17 per cent of the marks to pass – compared to 19 per cent in the summer.

And the grade boundaries for OCR also dropped slightly – from 15.3 per cent of marks needed for a grade 4 in the summer to 15 per cent in November.

Exam boards have previously defended the lower grade boundaries set for a pass in the maths GCSE – but concerns were reignited today after the grade boundaries were lowered even further.

On Twitter, one maths teacher wrote that he was “still very concerned” about the low grade boundaries on the higher tier.

And another maths teacher wrote: “These boundaries are a disgrace – the gcse isn’t fit for purpose. There can be no defending any of the boundaries from any board.”

One maths tutor wrote: “I despair of the “system”[…] Any system where you can get 87 per cent on a paper wrong and still get a GCSE has to be flawed.”

She added: “The papers being set are simply not fit for purpose.”

And some teachers are concerned about whether they should use the resit grade boundaries when looking at mock exams.

Exams regulator Ofqual defended the lower maths grade boundaries in a blog in November last year – stating that the new maths GCSE papers have been designed differently.

Half of the marks should be targeted at grades 9, 8 and 7, and the other half of the marks should be targeted at grades 6, 5 and 4, in the higher tier paper, the blog said.

Ofqual wrote: “Higher-tier papers now contain more demanding questions and only about a sixth of the marks on those papers are designed for students working at grade 4.

“In that context, it’s not surprising that the grade boundary for a grade 4 on the higher tier papers was around 20 per cent of the maximum mark.”

Data from AQA, Edexcel and OCR suggests that 30 per cent of candidates resitting their maths GCSE received at least a grade 4 today, and 39 per cent achieved the same in English.

This article was written by Eleanor Busby and published on 11 January 2018 in TES