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I need an idiot's guide to exam/ test results.

(3 Posts)
fishinmyhair Tue 04-Jul-17 11:03:54

Even at university when my dh first tried to explain shifting grades and curves on a graph, I have not been able to fathom how you can compare year to year results seeing as the grade boundaries can be shifted.

If the boundaries of percentages or number of marks can be different each year then how do you know that there has been an "improvement" in a school, region or nationally?

How do you know standards are actually improving if it's all shifted each year. I'm so confused and yet I feel it's important somehow.

KS2 SATs results seem better but what does that ACTUALLY mean?

It just feels manipulated.

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Tue 04-Jul-17 13:48:09

Easy answer: you can't tell if standards are improving.

GCSE grade boundaries are set by looking at KS2 results for that cohort and then ensuring they get on average what they are expected to get, i.e. If their KS2 results were better than the previous year, then GCSE results would be expected to rise. They also look at the results for key exam centres and check that they are performing roughly as expected.
Then Ofqual check everything against other exam boards to ensure comparability across the boards.

Obviously if everything goes to pot at secondary (e.g. Teacher recruitment and retention crisis has a national impact on progress at secondary) then this probably won't be reflected in the results. If a cohort in general does badly, it's generally assumed that the paper was harder and the grade boundaries adjusted accordingly, not that the cohort has underperformed due to poor teaching and results downgraded. Similarly if they do well due to good teaching, then the exam board can appeal to Ofqual to increase the pass rate stating increased standards and providing evidence, but this is very difficult to do.

Ofqual has now introduced a National Reference Test which will be taken by a sample of Y11s in March before their exams. Each year will sit the same test paper. This will then be used year on year to decide if a particular cohort is stronger or weaker than previous years and grade boundaries set accordingly. It was sat for the first time this year, and it will be a few years before they will be able to use it completely so they will use it alongside KS2 results, but it should be fully implemented by the time the cohort with the new, completely different KS2 results hit Y11.

fishinmyhair Tue 04-Jul-17 23:51:06

Thank you. My dh had another go at trying to explain. It's slowly going in.

OP’s posts: |

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