GCSE grade boundaries explained
GCSE results are released today after months of disruption, extended stints of remote learning and cancelled exams.
It felt unfair to ask students to take exams when their school learning had been so chaotic, instead, students were marked on their general performance in school.
Students were graded by their teachers – looking at their overall performance in class, mock exams predicted grades and essays over the past two years.
Because of the strange set of circumstances and lack of tests, exam boards could not create new grade boundaries for 2021.
Instead – teachers had to rely on the grade boundaries from 2019 when allocating a grade.
What are grade boundaries?
A grade boundary is the minimum number of marks needed for each grade to be achieved.
Usually when taking an exam grade boundaries are used, for example, a score of 50 or 51 marks will award someone with an overall B grade.
A mark of 49 would then all into the C grade category, determining the student's overall grades in each subject.
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The grade boundaries can differ from each year and subject – this is because exams vary in difficulty.
Across the UK grade boundaries are set once all GCSE exams have been marked, this is so the exam board can regulate how students have done overall.
This helps the exam board calculate how easy or hard students have found the exams, adjusting the grade boundary accordingly and fairly.
What is a 5 in GCSE results?
The GCSE grading system changed a few years ago from the traditional A-U format, so as to ensure students get a more accurate result.
A number 5 is defined as a strong pass – somewhere between a C and a B.
An 8 and 9 is equivalent to top-tier A/A*, whilst a U still appears as U.
How were GCSE students marked?
This year, students were marked on their overall performance by their subject teacher, with them giving the student a grade rather than a number of marks.
The teachers could use work from across the past two years to inform their decision.
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The grade given is then moderated internally and signed off by the Head of Departments for each subject.
Headteachers were also required to submit a personal declaration stating that they believe the grades given to be accurate.
Schools were also asked by the exam boards to provide examples of the student's work as part of a quality assurance (QA) to provide evidence to the student's grade given.
Can I appeal my GCSE results?
Today’s results have been released earlier than normal, this is to give students plenty of time to request a review.
Those wishing to appeal any grades must first contact their school or institution to let them know they wish to appeal.
The school will then check and ensure that all measures were correctly followed during the grading process and will also review the grade given.
If the schools find a grading error they will submit a revised grade to the exam board.
If no error was found by the school and all procedures were followed correctly, exam board will review the grade.
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Appeals for any grades can cause the grade to go up or down.
After these procedures have taken place and neither the school nor exam board have found any reason for the grade to be inaccurate, students can appeal further.
If they still disagree with the grade given students can apply for their case to be referred to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS).
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