Marking harshly .... eh?

Currently the media seems to have locked themselves into a frenzy about the GCSE exam grades. Over the years they have been reporting the concerns of many that the achievement is going up, now that it has gone down, they are shouting about the turnaround.

But to trust the media to get the story right, is beyond reason. They are telling everyone and their dog that the exam boards are marking more harshly.

Nope, they are not.

The marking process is very likely to have remained the same, so what ever mark the student has gained, they would have gained anyway.

What has changed is the grade boundaries and how these marks are accepted, hypothetically if we were to 'pretend' that 50-60% is the bounded range for a C grade. Then a population of students will produce work that once marked will fall into this range.

Now, if we don't like the look of this, discovering that 62% of students are getting C or above, we can move the boundaries, no change to marks, no harsher marking, but a more stringent boundary is applied.

This has many names, basically it normalises the population, exam bodies have been doing it for a very long time.

So, we move the lower boundary by a couple of percentile, lets say now a C is 52-60%, the upper boundary may move for B's but did you notice that these were not affected. Now this may trim off around 1% of the population, not changing their actual mark, but changing where it falls in grading terms.

I can only guess as to what is happening, but it is clear, marking has not changed in many exams (yet), but there has been movement of the boundaries. Probably over the last six months, its hard to tell as there are a multitude of bodies involved and the media are adept at confusing the issue.

But the boundaries seemed to have moved up a little at C and down a little at A*.


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