Ofqual to investigate variations in the number of A* and A grades

The Telegraph reports:

Ofqual is to launch an investigation into “variations” in the number of A* and A grades awarded in traditional sixth-form exams, it was revealed.

In a report, the regular said the proportion of top marks differed significantly between subjects each year.

It raised particularly concerns over modern foreign languages such as French, German and Spanish, with warnings that examiners award “relatively few” elite A*s compared with other disciplines.

Over the next year, the watchdog will evaluate the way subjects are graded “so that standards are as comparable and consistent as possible”, it emerged.

It is believed that the proportion of good marks will fail to rise for the second year running following a Government crackdown on “grade inflation”. In 2012, some 26.6 per cent of papers were awarded at least an A compared with 27 per cent a year earlier.

But Ofqual suggested that students’ chances of securing top grades depended on their choice of subject.

According to figures, 28.6 per cent of further maths papers were graded A* last year, while the number stood at 17.4 per cent for maths, 13.1 per cent for art and design, 10.7 per cent in the classics and 9.9 per cent in physics.

However, the proportion was as low as 2.4 per cent in ICT, 3.3 per cent in business studies, 3.7 per cent in drama, 6.3 per cent in geography and 6.8 per cent in English.

Only 6.8 per cent of French exams and 7.9 per cent of German papers gained A* despite the fact that languages are normally the preserve of the brightest pupils.

The Government has already outlined plans to overhaul A-levels with tougher questions and a greater focus on end-of-course exams.

Ofqual said it did not plan to “recalibrate” A-level standards when new courses are introduced in subjects such as English, science, maths, history and geography in 2015.

But Ofqual added: “There are two features of performance standards at present that we plan to address.

“First, relatively few A* grades are awarded in modern foreign languages when compared with other subjects with a high proportion of A grades. Secondly, there are variations in the proportion of A* to A grades awarded at A level each year in subjects.

“We plan to evaluate both of these features and to make improvements so that standards are as comparable and consistent as possible.”

The corporate plan – outlining Ofqual’s priorities over the next three years – also suggested that pupils were sitting too many exams, saying that it wanted to develop approaches to education “that do not assume that everything that should be taught should be assessed and contribute to the student’s grade for the subject”.

It also announced plans for a national sampling test for 16-year-olds that will be used to benchmark the difficulty level of future GCSE exams.

LINK DELETED: http://ofqual.gov.uk/news/ofqual-sets-out-plans-to-drive-qualification-improvement/

LINK DELETED: http://ofqual.gov.uk/files/2013-08-09-corporate-plan-2013-16.pdf