Uniform mark scale (UMS)
What is UMS?
The Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) is a way of turning the raw marks achieved in a unit in a particular sitting into a mark that can be used to compare with those achieved in other series.
The UMS balances out differences between exams and is a way of making sure people get the correct grade, no matter when they took a particular unit. UMS marks from all the units are then added together to give you an overall mark for your qualification.
Let's say, for example, that Chris takes an exam for a particular unit in January while Ali takes that unit in June. Because the exam questions will be different between the January and June sittings, it is possible that one exam might be slightly more difficult than the other.
If both students got a raw mark of 42/50 on their exams, but the June exam was more difficult than the January sitting, then their marks wouldn't represent the same level of achievement. The UMS mark would reflect this.
Please note: non-modular Maths does not use UMS conversion, but all our other A-levels and GCSEs do. If you are teaching one of these, you may find the UMS booklet helpful. UMS/points grade boundaries are also available for all qualifications.
Convert marks to UMS
You can use the UMS converter to get the UMS value of a raw mark from any modular series. The raw marks are the marks shown on your marked exam paper, not the total on your provisional results slip.
The UMS converter is for finding the UMS value of raw marks so if you are using your UMS marks from the provisional results slip, you will not be able to calculate the accurate raw mark.
More information on UMS
A detailed example
Most A-levels are made up of four units, with a grand total of 400 UMS marks available. Six-unit A-levels are out of 600 UMS marks, and two-unit A-levels are out of 200 UMS marks (see uniform mark grade boundaries tables)
Let's imagine a four-unit A-level, with the first unit (we'll call it Unit X) worth 30% of the qualification. There are 400 UMS marks for the whole qualification (because it's a four-unit A-level), so Unit X will be worth a maximum of 120 UMS marks (30% of 400).
Grade boundaries for UMS marks are fixed so that:
A = 80% of the maximum UMS
B = 70%
C = 60%
D = 50%
E = 40%
For Unit X, this means that our UMS grade boundaries are:
A = 96 (80% of 120)
B = 84 (70% of 120)
C = 72 (60% of 120)
D = 60 (50% of 120)
E = 48 (40% of 120)
Let's say that the paper itself is out of 80 marks. These are the raw marks. Once the exam has been taken by everyone, a committee at AQA gathers to decide what the grade boundaries for this particular paper should be, taking into account for example how difficult it is compared to earlier versions of the same unit.
For this exam, let's say the committee decides that the grade A boundary is 60 out of 80 and the grade E boundary is 36 out of 80 (remember, these are raw marks). The other grade boundaries are spread evenly between these two points.
We now convert the raw marks to UMS marks, because we know where the equivalent grade boundaries lie:
If you took the exam and got 60/80, this would give you 96 UMS, because 60 happens to be the raw mark grade A boundary set by the committee, and 96 is the uniform mark grade A boundary for this unit.
If you got 55/80, you would get 86 UMS (grade B).
If you got 45/80, you would get 66 UMS (grade D).
If you want to see how these calculations are made or work them out for yourself, you can read more in our uniform marks booklet. You can also find out how raw marks translate into UMS marks for specific exam papers using our UMS converter. Grade boundaries for all our exams are also listed on our website, updated with every round of exams.
Because the raw marks are converted to UMS marks, it means different students' grades can be compared side by side, with a particular UMS (and ultimately grade) representing the same level of achievement no matter when the unit was taken.
The approach taken for GCSE is the same as for A-level, except the number of units and the maximum UMS marks available vary between subjects. The UMS grade boundaries for GCSE are fixed as follows:
A* = 90% of the maximum UMS
A = 80%
B = 70%
C = 60%
D = 50%
E = 40%
F = 30%
G = 20%
All our A-levels and GCSEs (except non-modular Mathematics specifications) use UMS conversions from raw marks. If you are teaching one of these then you may find the UMS booklet helpful.
This booklet explains why the UMS is necessary and how it works. It also explains the points system used in the Diploma. It is intended for Exams Officers and others who have a reasonable understanding of the examination system and of the terminology used.
Principal Learning and the Project Qualification
Points for each grade in Principal Learning and the Project Qualification
Diploma Principal Learning uses a nationally-agreed points system to report the result of each unit. The same system is used for the Project Qualification, taken as part of a Diploma. As in the case of the Uniform Mark Scale (UMS), the points system is used to show how a unit's raw marks relate to common standards across the qualification. Conversion of raw marks to points in Principal Learning and the Project Qualification is slightly different from the conversion of raw marks to uniform marks in GCE and modular GCSE.
The maximum points score available for a Principal Learning unit and the Project Qualification (when taken as part of a Diploma) depends on the level and number of guided learning hours (glh). More information is available in the Uniform marks in A-level and GCSE exams and points in the Diploma booklet.
This uniform marks booklet explains why the Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) is necessary and how it works. It also explains the points system used in the Diploma. It is intended for Exams Officers and others who have a reasonable understanding of the exam system and of the terminology used.