Having looked through the OCR Website, these are summaries of the GCSE Grade Boundaries in all three of the English qualifications: English, English Language and English Literature.
I have gone back to the start of this qualification in 2010 and, as centres have the option of submitting Controlled Assessments or, indeed, sitting the examination, in either January or June there have been now four cycles of assessment. Therefore, the grade boundaries have been published – publically available on the OCR website – four times since the inception of the specification: January and June 2011, January and June 2012.
Let’s take English first: the standalone qualification that combines some elements of literature and language.
You can see here that in every part of the qualification, the grade boundaries have increased and that the majority of the increase has focussed on the C/D borderline candidates and especially in the Reading Literary Texts and Imaginative Writing units which are Controlled Assessments. Students produce these essays in class, in examination conditions over the course of the two year qualification. When marked against criteria, students’ essays are awarded a numerical mark and these are the raw scores listed above. A student completing an essay in January 2011 may have achieved 21 marks and the evidence at that time would suggest it was a low C-grade essay; when submitted in June 2012, that same essay with the same raw score of 21 comes out as a low D-grade essay.
Only a student whose essay is marked at 25 points would have been awareded a C-grade in June 2012. However, when that student was being handed the essay back, they would have been under the impression that it was a very strong C-grade essay and almost a B-grade essay. If a school were to be offering additional support and assistance and mentoring to their C/D borderline students as many schools do, this student would not have been a candidate even though the essay has only barely crossed and C/D threshold in June 2012.
The effect is even more pronounced in the Imaginative Writing unit: if students were awarded a C by their teachers for their work produced in the course of Year 10 or 11, every single student would have been downgraded to a D because the C-grade boundary has shifted from 21-25 to 26-29.
These are the English Language Grade Boundaries. The same pattern emerges: the grade boundaries of Controlled Assessments have shifted by a significant number of marks and especially in the C/D borderline. Here, however, the effect is slightly less extreme: because this qualification marks are out of 60, the increase in grade boundaries does not shift attainment by whole grades as it does in the English qualification. Therefore a larger proportion of those students receiving essays and stories back at C-grades still achieved their C-grade.
This qualification also demands only one literary essay whereas the English qualification requires three which are then averaged out.
These two qualifications are important: these are the grades that sixth form and vocational colleges, employers and schools look to to determine whether the candidate has the baseline C for literacy and is almost invariably looked for. Whilst many colleges will still be accepting students with a D instead of a C, and no doubt have been inundated with phone calls recently, the C-grade in GCSE English / Language is still going to be a benchmark for the ability to communicate into the future.
This shows that the Literature qualification has not suffered from this rise in grade boundaries to anything like the same extent as the English or Language: the C-grade threshold is almost identical to the previous years, having increased by a single mark. The rise in grade boundaries here has affected the lower grades: Es and Fs have seen the gratest rise in grade boundaries; A*-B demonstrate a lowering of the grade boundaries. A number of factors may help to explain this: a large number of schools elect not to enter students for Literature without a realistic probability of achieving a C grade; it is a more challenging exam requiring detailed knowledge and understanding of six texts encompassing drama, poetry and prose in both contemporary and “heritage” contexts and from other cultures.
The Heritage Prose and Contemporary Poetry examination is peculiar: at foundation level, the grade boundaries have reduced slightly; at the higher level, there is a huge rise: every student who wrote to the same level as a C grade essay in January 2012, which would have required 19-23 marks, would have achieved a D-grade in June 2012.
Now, I am not banging any particular drum here. These are publically available statistics and I have done nothing more here than put in one place information in the OCR website.
The OCR Examination Board’s official stance, as stated on their website, is
Grade boundaries are not automatically carried forward and are set in the context of the overall performance on a specification.
This summer is the first time we have certificated at specification level for GCSE English and English Language and also saw a far higher entry for the coursework units than at any previous exam series.
Our responsibility is to ensure that, overall, we maintain standards as we move to the new specifications and this, inevitably, has an impact on the setting of the boundaries.
Whilst significant increases in coursework or controlled assessment boundaries from one examination to the next are not desirable, all the examination boards needed to raise these this summer.
Overall, the awarders were confident that the right standards had been carried forward for the new English specifications to meet the regulator’s expectations of comparable outcomes in these subjects.
The OCR website is www.ocr.org.uk for those of you who want to check it out yourselves.
If you have concerns about your results, it is possible for your school to request remarking – the deadline for that or for any sort of appeal is 20th September 2012 according to the Joint Council for Qualifications http://www.jcq.org.uk/attachments/published/1695/Post%20Results%20Services%20Booklet%2012-13.pdf
However, as I understand it, it would be remarked and then the marks would be converted back into grades using the same grade boundaries as are above and, therefore, this would not itself improve your grade. And remarking will always run the risk of marks being lowered.
Three forms of post-results review are possible:
1. A clerical review to ensure that all pages of the script have been marked and the maths has been correct;
2. A review of marking to ensure that the mark scheme has been applied correctly. Note that this will only change the mark which will then be converted into a grade by the same mark scheme as in June;
3. A review of moderation if and only if the moderator has marked down Controlled Assessments that we’re submitted in June. Again, this is a review of the mark, not of the conversion from marks to grades.
There are a range of calls from NAHT, Ofqual and now even Jeremy Hunt to have some form of review and possible regrading.
And we all must be relieved and have faith in the power of Mr Hunt to put things right!
Ofqual has now reported back and their findings are somewhat disappointing. Click here to see see my observations on the Ofqual report and a variety of other commentators from the media.