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A level grade leak

(94 Posts)
maddyone Wed 14-Aug-19 23:31:01

Today it was revealed (leaked) that an A level maths student need only achieve 55% in the maths examination to be awarded an A grade. This is with the exam board Edexcel and similar numbers are expected with other boards.

When my daughter sat her A level maths in 2001, 80% correct was the required number in order to attract an A grade.

Given that an A grade in mathematics is usually required in order to commence a medical degree, is it acceptable that the score required for an A grade has dropped so far? A doctor must calculate regularly in order to prescribe the correct dosage of medicine for his/her patients, particularly those patients who are in hospital. A mistake could so easily occur when mathematical abilities are poorer. If 80% was required in 2001 why is 55% sufficient today? The curriculum has not changed significantly since 2001.

Will you feel confident about being treated by a medic who scored 55% in his/her A level mathematics?

B9exchange Wed 14-Aug-19 23:49:46

Agree the percentage for an A grade makes it meaningless, always used to be 80%.

I don't think I would want someone working out my pension who really struggled with maths, but doctors don't really do calculations these days, the software does it all for them. I would want to be treated by someone with genuine compassion who saw me as a whole person, whose knowledge was up to date, and who put my care before saving money to impress the CCG!

mumofmadboys Thu 15-Aug-19 00:00:57

Surely it depends on the difficulty of the exam? A certain percentage are awarded a grade A each year. A lit of medics do not do Maths at A level

maddyone Thu 15-Aug-19 00:11:04

Most medics do A level maths actually. The curriculum has not changed significantly since 2001, in other words it is not very much different, if at all, in difficulty since 2001. That is point I am trying to make.

maddyone Thu 15-Aug-19 00:13:33

The most common A level subjects for medics are Mathematics, Chemistry, and Biology, but sometimes Biology is exchanged for another subject, typically Physics.

suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 00:23:59

maddy you appear to be confusing arithmetic with mathematics. And anyway, as already posted, doctors wound not be doing arithmetical calculations on drug dosages.

suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 00:24:51


suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 00:26:46

And if you are passing physics and chemistry, you must be numerate.

suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 00:40:26

And this
‘General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Geoff Barton said: "We are extremely disappointed if grade boundaries have been leaked ahead of results day."
But he said was a pointless exercise because the purpose of grade boundaries was to account for differences in the difficulty of papers so that students were not disadvantaged from one year to the next’

SueDonim Thu 15-Aug-19 00:47:31

The only required subject for medicine is chemistry. Two other subjects out of physics, biology or maths are also usually asked for but maths isn't essential.

suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 00:57:31

Sadly the average journalist reporting on this ‘ leak’ will have the numeracy level of a gnat and will not understand ( or even have read) the following from Pearson. It is a non story and just set up to , yet again, knock the achievements of our young people. As we know, exams were much harder in our day (and we didn’t go gallivanting off on trans-Atlantic yachts either)

‘Why grade boundaries move within a subject from year to year
AS, A Level and GCSE qualifications in the UK are awarded using the ‘comparable outcomes’ approach to setting and maintaining standards.

The basic principle of this approach is that if the group of students (the cohort) taking a qualification in one year is of similar ability to the cohort in the previous year, then the overall results (outcomes) at national level, should be comparable.

Statistics play an important role in the comparable outcomes approach. Awarding bodies work with Ofqual to create a reference matrix for each subject, on which to base predictions of AS or A Level performance. This prediction matrix applies to the cohort taking the assessments in the current year, and is based on those candidates’ prior attainment data, taken from their GCSE performance.

In addition to statistics, senior examiners play a crucial role in providing their expert judgments about the quality of work and this insight also helps ensure that the grade boundaries are set in the right place.

Our subject experts are trained thoroughly in the process of writing question papers and assessments that are consistent in difficulty year on year. It is also important to ensure that assessments are valid and that they are not predictable for learners. Because of this, question papers can be slightly more or less difficult than in previous years because of the content being tested and the questions that are asked. In order to ensure fairness to all candidates and comparability of standards over time, grade boundaries may shift to ensure that variation in difficulty is taken into account.

This is particularly important during transition to new or changed qualifications, such as the new AS and A Levels.

crystaltipps Thu 15-Aug-19 05:48:16

A levels have changed thanks to one M Gove. There used to be the AS level taken after year 1. Maths was modular- you could sit various papers at different stages, now it’s all sat at the end of 2 years all in one go, so the stuff you learnt in term one isn’t tested after term one , it’s tested after term6. So yes, it is harder than 3 years ago.

travelsafar Thu 15-Aug-19 06:37:45

How sad that those who achieve a much higher pass mark through sheer hard work and revision are given the same A grade of those who got 55% because they couldn't be bothered to work as hard or revise.

suziewoozie Thu 15-Aug-19 07:47:57

travel it doesn’t work like that. It is true of course that there is always a range within each grade so that some will just make it to an A* and others ( a very tiny number) will gain almost the maximum. But basically grade boundaries are based on the principle that year on year, the cohorts of students are broadly similar but the comparable difficulty of the exam paper will, despite all best efforts, vary. It’s much more complicated than I can simply explain but, broadly, to be awarded an A* in a particular subject, you might have to be in the top, say, 7%. So if you put the whole list of candidates in mark order, the grade boundary for the A* will be drawn 7% down the list and so on for all the other grades.
It’s impossible every year for exam papers to be completely comparable despite the best efforts of everyone concerned. The system is as fair as possible using a range of statistical techniques and other information. You don’t get an A* if you can’t be bothered to work hard or revise any year and I think it’s mean hearted to post that.

Pittcity Thu 15-Aug-19 09:05:37

Does anyone have to work anything out in their head nowadays? I'm sure the computer that doctors are always typing into tells them doses etc. I'd rather they had an A level in computing.

Aepgirl Thu 15-Aug-19 10:15:21

A boy on local radio this morning needed 3 As to get his place at university. He got a C in Maths, so what percentage did he get?!!!

MawB Thu 15-Aug-19 10:19:56

Travelsafar do you know^have any idea - what you are talking about?

Rosina Thu 15-Aug-19 10:20:22

I strongly believe that the exam system and grading is completely shot to pieces and needs a massive overhaul, and a nationwide agreed marking and grading structure for exam boards. How can it be that the level of pass grades rises year on year until it is decided that pretty soon everyone will get A* for every exam, and the next year a stricter criteria is imposed? It has become a complete mockery of testing - there must now be thousands who have much higher intelligence and ability who have similar or lower grades to those who are not such intellectual high flyers - a waste of everyone's time.

Rosina Thu 15-Aug-19 10:23:47

I can understand perfectly what Travelsafar means - and I agree with her. 'Bit harsh, MawB?

MawB Thu 15-Aug-19 10:39:00

I felt strongly that travel's comment was also harsh and entirely unjustified. So be it.

Nanny27 Thu 15-Aug-19 10:41:41

The AS level is still going strong Crystaltips

maddyone Thu 15-Aug-19 10:48:23

I agree Rosina.
I do have some knowledge of the exam system, but I’m not an expert by any means. My husband taught in an independent school, he taught ages 11 to 18. I taught much younger children in a state school, so whatever I know comes from what my DH told me. He was also Deputy Head and crucially, Examination Secretary. He has told me for years that both the GCSE and A level examination have been dumbed down year on year. He had a lot to do with the various examination boards, he was aware of the curriculum for all the subjects even though he taught Classics, French, and a bit of maths, and was involved and proactive in getting kids who didn’t get the grades required into university etc etc. So I think he knows what he’s talking about.
The grade inflation has been happening for years. When our own children took their A levels at his school, the percentage required for an A grade was pretty high, usually around 80% or more. The percentage was steadily dropped allowing more children to achieve high grades.
More recently the system has moved towards less or no modular examinations, just as it was when we grandparents took our A levels. That will make the examinations more taxing, quite rightly, as A levels were never meant to be easy, they were designed to show if students would be able to cope with university studies. Of course nowadays, students don’t just enter university with A levels as we tended to do, they open doors to many careers, quite rightly. But to pretend that they are are taxing as they once were is to bury your head in the sand.
Nonetheless I hope all the students receiving their grades today will have achieved what they hoped for and can move forward in the chosen paths.

missdeke Thu 15-Aug-19 10:50:24

I just thank god that I am not in education (as a student) now, the pressure on them from year 1 is horrendous. It's all exams and results and university. I seem to remember when I took my O-levels you only went on to 6th form and A-levels if you wanted a particular career. It's all a ploy to keep down unemployment figures. I feel so sorry for youngsters today.

Elegran Thu 15-Aug-19 10:50:50

Bbut, Rosina several people (ones who know what they are talking about) have replied that the level of ability and hard work of those taking the exam is at the same percentage each year, and that is known to their tutors.

What changes is the exact level of the questions in the exam. That questions in the exam are different each year - they have to be, there isn't time to test every single kind of calculation that had been studied. If the same paper were used every year, students could just swot up those questions and not other things, then they wouldn't know the other things at all. The examiners try to set questions which are equal in difficulty, but there are always variations.

In a year where the questions are harder, the students get an A for lower actual marks than in a year when the questions are easy. That is more fair on them than getting a "just passed" on a hard paper, when last year they would have got "distinction" on an easy one.

humptydumpty Thu 15-Aug-19 11:05:43

Completely agree elegran, I really don't understand this hoohah (sp?) - obviously it's impossible to arrange for papers to be equally hard every year, so grade boundaries have to change to take this into account. A real non-story IMO