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How unpredictable are A level results?

(32 Posts)
Eeeeeek330 Mon 06-Mar-17 12:05:39

Do you think that if a DC is regularly scoring the grades they are predicted in mocks and class tests and revises the whole syllabus well, that they should achieve predicted grades? I suppose I am wondering if there is an element of luck. I was woefully underprepared for mine, so I was dependent on the stuff I had manage to cram coming up in the exam. Nor were the syllabus, past papers and mark schemes published online for reference. So my results weren't really bad luck.
However, given the statistics recently quoted on another thread, of students dropping at least 2 grades on their university offers, if there were other factors at play to do with the exam itself. Reading the threads on the results pages last year, I got the impression that marking was subjective, lots of mistake made by examiners and that especially in the case of GCSEs , questions were asked in a format that wasn't predictable.
I am wondering could the exams really contain something unpredictable, especially in the new Linear A level exams?

RedHelenB Mon 06-Mar-17 12:48:59

I think that's a possibility but if you know your subject content inside out and understand the theory behind it you should still do well because no question should throw you

It is the middle ground where the new exams will be a lot more unpredictable imo.

goodbyestranger Mon 06-Mar-17 12:53:23

Well I've seen some extraordinary marking just among my own DCs' papers, and nothing would surprise me now. The dodgy marking has overwhelmingly been in the humanities subjects with my DC, with a re-mark for one English Lit A level producing an extra eighteen marks and a re-grade to a top A* for DS2. A paper for DS3 went to appeal after we got a photocopy of it and DS1 spotted that the original marker had failed to mark an entire question and the re-marker had not picked up on that so out Headteacher sent that paper off to Michael Gove to illustrate the crappiness of certain marking. That paper came back as an A* too, after it had done the rounds. So yes, cross fingers!

goodbyestranger Mon 06-Mar-17 12:55:36

our Headteacher.

I should have said that second paper was RS or whatever it's called.

User006point5 Mon 06-Mar-17 15:22:46

goodbyestranger That's awful! Did it have any implications for their university places?

Eeeeeek330 Mon 06-Mar-17 15:29:39

goodbyestranger - scary stuff, was hoping for a bit of reassurance!

mummymeister Mon 06-Mar-17 15:35:55

goodbyestranger - not sure when your DC had a remark but bet it wasn't last year!

this is because they have changed the system on remarks. apparently some schools automatically put almost all papers back in for a remark as wealthy parents could afford to do this.

so now, the system is that they don't actually go back and remark the paper they just add up the marks on the paper. its more about has there been an arithmetical error than a more fundamental one.

one of my dc got caught by this last year 2016. dc missed a grade by one UMS and they just added them up again and wouldn't give the extra. it meant DC lost their first offer as well. this was in a science subject.

I think that this year there is going to be a whole different way of marking. one of my siblings is a science marker and also reckons this too. this has huge implications for uni offers. will be even tougher going forward as there will be no AS levels to judge on either.

goodbyestranger Mon 06-Mar-17 18:10:15

Sorry OP! But those are just a couple of examples from my own DC. Over the years I've come across lots and lots of examples and several instances of whole cohorts at school being savagely marked down and then been re-marked upwards. None of mine have missed a uni place because of grades, which is lucky - but some of their friends have been less fortunate. One girl recently lost her Oxford place because by the time the whole cohort had been re-marked - the place was no longer there even though her re-marked grades meant she met the offer. Losing a uni place because of dodgy marking is serious stuff - very sorry to hear about your DC mummymeister, that's brutal.

DS2's re-mark for English Lit was 2014 and as a family we haven't had any dodgy marks under the new system. I'm another one hoping we don't have any for A Levels this summer smile I'm also hoping that if marks for the linear exams plummet across the board, unis will be indulgent to offerees. They need to fill their places after all.

EnormousTiger Mon 06-Mar-17 18:40:44

I thik the new linear A levels continue to give x per cent A star, Y per cent A etc so if everyone does less well it will be accounted for but I may be wrong. 1 of my twins' A levels this year is linear (the new system) and the other has 2 of that kind; where as in another subject they have such high marks in AS from last summer they think they are pretty certain to get A.

It also will depend on the school and teacher. Some teachers are better than others at predicting marks and some exams are new. My 2 did pretty well (one got 100% in one AS last summer) and the school bought my twins' papers in that subject from the board so they could look at why they did better than other children in the class to learn for this year. it is very hard for reachers when the syllabus and exam system keeps changing. I am glad their school kept A As levels for lower sixth last year but not all schools are doing that.

My older 3 all got to university with no shocks particularly in results but it will always be a bit unpredictable. They had mocks today and one was telling me this afternoon about things he'd forgotten or could have put in or how the paper might have been interpreted. On the whole I think most marks are fair (I've marked A level and there was an awful lot of useful meetings and moderation meetings to get consistency).

boys3 Mon 06-Mar-17 19:11:21

2014 was not a good year for English Lit - well for a couple of DCs at least. DS1 had a similar experience to goodbye's. One paper marked one ums above an E Grade, fortunately for him the other three papers, with two having been taken at AS, were all at or very close to 100%. So he still received an A overall even before the re-mark. However once remarked this particular paper came back as one mark shy of an A* so pushing his overall grade back to an A*. That was purely down to wholly inept marking - the marks had been added up correctly, but clearly the original marker knew next to nothing about English Lit! So whilst I take redhelen's point sometimes other factors, such as in DS1's case, come into play.

Hollybollybingbong Mon 06-Mar-17 19:12:21

OP I think this year will be difficult to predict for many reasons, the new A levels and the lower numbers of candidates applying to Uni. In an ideal world the two would balance each other out (it's the only thing keeping me going!)Mummymeister Last year we sent back DS's further maths FP 4 AS paper. It was remarked and gained 3 additional marks taking it from a C to a B, the points were gained on an incorrectly marked answer. There were lots of posts saying that maths papers never get regraded so I would advise everyone to do what feels right for you and your DC.
On another point it's worth bearing in mind that grades can also go down on a remark.

tropicalfish Mon 06-Mar-17 22:20:50

my dc dropped 3 grades below her predicted A2s. I had thought she was over predicted at the time in one subject. I really have no idea if generally people achieve or over achieve their predicted grades. Its important have a really achievable insurance place as someone else on mumsnet recently stated rather than having 2 offers with the same grades.

goodbyestranger Tue 07-Mar-17 08:56:43

tropicalfish for some students all offers are the same grades but should be easily achievable, unless they completely flake off. Thus a student on track for 3A* wanting to do MFL say, or Biological Sciences or even History, where offers tend to be higher, isn't well advised to have an insurance offer much below their top choice or the chances are they wouldn't be stretched at university level and could be miserable, not to mention dumbing down their employment chances later on. For some students it makes absolute sense to have two offers of the same grade but to be careful that the insurance choice doesn't have an inflexible attitude to missed grades, as some of the most competitive unis do.

RedHelenB Tue 07-Mar-17 09:01:45

The question wasnt about bad marking. What |I mean to say id if someone has sailed along all their A level years on As there is no reason for that to plummet to a c. However, if working to their full capacity and with the wind in the right direction you are only looking at an A on a good day it is more likely that you will be floored by a question phrased in a different way which could drop you down a grade. The good thing is I know lots of pupils whohavent achieved their target grade all year come out with that mark. Could be to do with a too generous marker but on baslance more likely to do with it clicking on the day.

RedHelenB Tue 07-Mar-17 09:06:27

Actually on thorougly re reading the OP I realise that marking was mentioned. My dd did a gcse early last year and one of her friends who was around her level and revised hard came out with a grade lower. On remark she got the same grade as my daughter., Appparently she has a tendency to go all round the houses so picking up that she had the correct answer wasnt easy. Obviously they have less pressure on remarks so that those correct answers were credited.

goodbyestranger Tue 07-Mar-17 09:09:38

I get your point Helen but the unpredictability of marking is fairly central here, given that it's been shown that however spot on a DC is, the examiner's mark can be very wide of the appropriate mark.

goodbyestranger Tue 07-Mar-17 09:10:16

Cross post!

mummymeister Tue 07-Mar-17 11:47:23

I still have some DC going through the GCSE and A levels systems and to be honest I feel very nervous about it. I get that there will be less applying for uni and that marks are standardised to be percentages in each grade. but, because of previous experiences, I really don't have a lot of confidence in the system at the moment.

One of my DC is deferring uni for a year so that they have the grades before applying. another is just started on A levels and another a year into the new graded GCSE's.

It feels like so many more things are up in the air at the moment with no as levels, no idea how the new 1 - 9 GCSE's will work, how unis will make offers with no AS levels, the new a levels etc that I just feel for those of my kids going through the system now.

Needmoresleep Tue 07-Mar-17 13:55:53

DD was at a school until Yr 11, that took linear A levels. They essentially did all their AS and A level papers at the end of Yr 13. (With the majority taking 4 A levels!)

The results, and University places, of her friends who stayed on were very good indeed. With no AS results there was no taking your foot off the throttle, and from what I hear, they all worked exceptionally hard in the run up to the exams.

DD in contrast had great AS results and a relatively low offer. And guess what...though she made her offer, her results were below prediction. It makes no difference in the scheme of things, and she really loved her sixth form, but I am pretty certain she would have done better had she taken linear A levels.

goodbyestranger Tue 07-Mar-17 17:13:09

mummymeister I have a DC doing the first round of linear A2s also a Y10 doing the first year of 1-9s, but I tend to take the view that it doesn't really matter what the structure is provided an entire cohort is doing it. In fact I'd far rather have a DC doing the first 1-9s than be the last of the old alphabetical grades, in the hope that the first year's marking will be relatively lenient smile

Eeeeeek330 Tue 07-Mar-17 20:01:25

RedhelenB - you are right, I was hoping for the reassurance that if a DC put the work in, and up until the exam shown themselves to be at the correct standard then they should achieve their predicted grades without 'luck' being a factor.

I am not sure if the linear are better or worse than the modular. For DD the opportunity to take AS levels gave her the opportunity to show potential, which wasn't obvious from GCSE results. But I suppose I am concerned that the teacher's might be a bit in the dark too.

User006point5 Tue 07-Mar-17 20:38:11

in the hope that the first year's marking will be relatively lenient
I suspect they'll be marked harder, so that grades will improve over the years... thereby allowing politicians to claim the credit. wink

Eeeeeek330 Tue 07-Mar-17 21:36:25

If the grades improve it'll be because the exam got easier, not students and teachers working harder!

tropicalfish Tue 07-Mar-17 21:57:40

I wanted to corroborate what Goodbyestranger recommended, which is the insurance offer should be sensible and relevant to the individual. So firm offer might be for oxbridge (A*AA) and insurance offer of AAA might be for excellent RG uni.

In terms of getting A*s, its an easy grade to just miss out on by a mark or two so quite feasible for an excellent hard working student to miss out on it.

SpoofersAreLosers Wed 08-Mar-17 11:01:43

I'm often quoting facts about predicted grades on Mumsnet. I find the rapid changes in University applications fascinating - I've four DC in Uni ( they are close in age and the eldest is doing a six year degree) and each year it seemed like there was something new. Fees, scrapping January exams, predicted grades, A*, the rise of unconditional offers, AAB student CAPS, ABB student caps etc etc.

The rapid rise in inaccurate A level predicted grades is astonishing. It's not just a small rise it's massive. All the facts and figures are in THIS UCAS Report 2016 on the factors associated with predicted and attained Alevel results.

The problem with predicted grades being so inaccurate is that they are the biggest factor used by universities to decide whether or not to offer a place so someone who has sensible realistic predictions will be unfairly disadvantaged compared with a student who has inflated predictions. E.g. Course X needs AAB, Two identical students apply who are likely to get BBB - student 1 has predicted grades of AAB and gets an offer, student 2 has predicted grades of BBB and doesn't get an offer. On results day. It's student get BBB but Course X still lets student 1 into the course with his dropped grades. Student 2 ends up going elsewhere. How is that fair? Student 1 has been rewarded for playing the system and taking a chance and Student 2 has been disadvantaged by his teachers accurate predictions. It's got nothing to do with academic ability but more to do with gamesmanship.

The vast majority of universities use predicted grades for making admissions decisions and yet predicted grades are more often wrong than right? Throw in unconditional offers for students who have yet to sit their exams and it gets even worse. Incidentally having an unconditional offer is one of the factors associated with having a high chance of missing your predicted grades.

Over 63 or 64 % of physics students don't get their predicted grade. Over 60% of biology students don't. That's crazy isn't it?

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