Sunday, September 11, 2005

Why Exam Grades Are An Issue

In response to Richard, the reason why 47% being sufficient for an A* at GCSE is an issue is because it highlights the true disgrace of our education system - the Uniform Marking Scheme. Rather than actually going through a rigorous procedure of testing exams year on year, the British exam boards see fit to mess about with the standards of our exams by applying a statistical formula each year to determine grade boundaries. This, however, is still somwhat subjective, as the pass marks can still be determined by the Chief Examiner in each subject.

What that means is that there is not an objective A* standard each year. A crude comparison is made instead between year on year ability, and it is assumed that the same number of people as last year are capable of achieving a certain standard. Unless, of course, that cohort actually exceeds the previous year, when it creates a new benchmark.

That's one of the primary factors behind the grade inflation leading to a rapid loss of public confidence in our public examination. And it needs to be stopped. It causes no end of problems - it was the Uniform Marking System that led to the A-Level marking fiasco (which thankfully finished off the awful Estelle Morris). Instead, we should accept that if a rigorous procedure is followed when setting exams, then year on year there isn't going to be much difference between the exams. Therefore fixed percentages can be expected to set the grades. Then we'd actually know how many people really were achieving an expected and accepted standard, rather than meeting the political goals of our masters.