Internally assessed units

An explanation of grade boundaries for internally assessed units and why they move.

When a specification has been in operation for some time, grade boundaries for internally assessed units (ie controlled assessment/coursework) often stay the same year on year. The regulators' GCSE, GCE, Principal Learning and Project Code of Practice allows grade boundaries to be carried forward from previous exam series but only if recommended by the principal moderator and supported by statistical and technical evidence. 

Why grade boundaries move

It is sometimes, however, necessary to move grade boundaries. This happens when a particular boundary from a previous exam does not represent the same standard as it did in previous years.

Sometimes the principal moderators report that some schools and colleges are giving higher marks for work of the same quality as previous years. Whilst the marks remain within tolerance, so are not changed by moderation, the work at a particular mark is not of the same quality as work at that mark in previous years.

Where marks go up though the quality of work stays the same, we maintain standards by adjusting grade boundaries upwards. This ensures all students are treated fairly no matter which year they take their exams.

This obligation to be fair to all students is a regulatory requirement intended to ensure that they should not:

  • gain better results simply because their teachers are more familiar with the specification and its requirements (and are thus better able to teach candidates in a way that helps them to meet the assessment criteria)
  • be advantaged or disadvantaged simply because of the point in the lifetime of the specification at which they happen to have entered.