Tag Archives: Literature

GCSE English Results 2012 OCR Grade Boundaries

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.

For the sake of completeness, below are the English Literature grade boundaries.

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.



GCSE English Results 2012

Let me rewind the clock for you a bare two months, a scant eight weeks ago. Our Controlled Assessments had been marked, our students had sat their exams, we had thought their exams were fair and accessible. Even the kids were happy with them – as happy as teenagers can be having been cooped up for a couple of hours writing.

Now fast forward to last Wednesday. The night before the results are due. Kids and their parents may or may not have been aware that schools would have had their examination results on Wednesday. They may or may not have been aware that there was a bubble of concern, disbelief and horror burbling informally around Twitter.

They may well have woken on Thursday to the beginnings of the bursting of that bubble. Results down; historic end to grade inflation; English grades down. Perhaps they will recall all the stern-faced serious teachers and Principals telling them how their future absolutely depended on their English grade. Maybe their parents were staring hopefully at the offer letter from sixth form colleges asking for a C grade.

And this is the mood in which kids came to get their results: hopeful, confused, worried and scared.

And results were down in English nationally.

Now, we sit OCR, an examination board renowned for rigorous marking and tough assessment. Having done a brief investigation of the web and OCRs website it is absolutely clear to me that the grade boundary shifted massively between January and June 2012.

Let’s look at the C/D boundaries as, in my school as in all others, this is often the focus of Senior Leadership Focus. In my school, this was basically my teaching group and this bunch of kids sat the English examination rather than the Language and Literature specifications. Ironically, because we felt it gave them a greater chance of getting a C grade.

Looking at the A*-C rates however, it looks like we were totally wrong! OCR nationally awarded 35% of students A*-C in English and 85% in Language. That is such a staggeringly vast distance between these success rates it can only really indicate that English is being viewed as poor cousin to Language.

For those who don’t know, there are three “English” course: English is a standalone qualification; Language and Literature are two distinct qualifications and, combined, constitute a wider course with more reading the English. Not harder but wider.

So, we went through the course over the past two years. There are three pieces of Controlled Assessments:

1. Reading Literary Texts – which requires three essays on three texts;
2. Imaginative Writing; and
3. Speaking and Listening

and there is one examination testing students reading of unseen media and non-fiction texts and original writing.

In January 2012 – in fact in every examination series between the introduction of this course two years ago and January 2012 – the grade boundary for a C was 21 – 25 marks. That means that an essay submitted in January marked at 23 would receive a good solid C grade.

In June 2012 the grade boundaries were


which means, to me, that the same essay, still meeting the criteria for 23 marks, is now graded as a D.

Now I may be wrong. Numbers and statistics are not my strongest point. But how can that be fair?

In what world can that be deemed anything but grossly unfair? Let me share with you an open letter sent by the National Association of Head Teachers to Michael Gove

Dear Michael

I write to share NAHT’s grave concerns about the circumstances surrounding this year’s GCSE examinations, with particular reference to English Language. It has become apparent that grade boundaries were significantly altered between the January and June examinations series and the consequence of this has been that the overall requirement for attaining a C grade increased by ten marks between January and June.

These adjustments appear to have been made because of unsubstantiated concerns that there was too high a pass rate emerging from the January series.

NAHT believes that this is an iniquitous and unfair state of affairs, discriminating against those pupils whose schools took the decision to enter them in June. The decision will have serious consequences for those pupils adversely affected. In many cases, this may well prevent them from taking up opportunities to pursue A Level courses. This situation offends natural justice and is, quite simply, unfair. If no action is taken it could also risk doubt being cast on the reliability of the grades awarded to the January cohort.

We are asking you to instigate an independent enquiry as to how this situation was allowed to occur. We believe that there is a course of action that could begin to address the manifest unfairness of the situation and restore confidence in the examination system. This involves the re-grading of June entrants using the same criteria applied in assessing the work of January entrants. However, only a full, independent enquiry will start to assuage the universal outcry from pupils, parents and school leaders alike against this appalling situation.

I am sending a similar letter to Glenys Stacey.

Yours sincerely

Russell Hobby
General Secretary

Doesn’t look like it is just me then!

What’s more, the grade boundaries have risen across the board but, by far, the most marked rise is at the most critical point: the C/D borderline. The A* boundary has risen by a mark; the C boundary by 4 marks; the G boundary by 1 mark. Now, I can accept that statistically you would expect a bell curve like that. But that bell curve is disproportionately affecting C/D borderline kids. The kids who need that C grade to progress to the next level of their education or their jobs.

And it creates a perfect storm for schools: at the same time that Michael Gove is demanding increasing A*-C grade levels from schools, pushing the benchmark level up from 35% to 40%, the exam boards are slashing the numbers of kids who are getting the C grade. Has Gove put pressure on the exam boards? Have instructions or indications been given, implicitly or explicitly by Gove?

I suppose that’s for someone else to decide.