GCSE Science: Supporting you in making tiering decisions for your students

Wednesday 7 Nov 2018

We know that making the right tiering decisions isn’t always easy, especially for borderline students. Last year, with so many changes, it was more challenging than ever. As a result, this summer we saw more students than we would have liked at risk of not achieving the minimum grade on the Higher tier.

Recognising how complex decisions were in the first year of the new qualifications, Ofqual, together with the awarding bodies, widened the allowed safety net at the bottom of the Higher tier.

We don’t expect Ofqual to repeat these special arrangements in the future, so it’s really important to revisit entry strategies to make sure students more suited to the Foundation tier are not entered for the Higher tier in 2019.

Find out more and attend our free webinar

Register to attend our webinar on Tuesday 4 December to find out more about what happened this summer. It will cover the changes made to grade boundaries on the Higher tier and tier choice implications for 2019. Book your place today.

Guidance for choosing tiers of entry

If you had significant numbers of students on the Higher tier who achieved a grade 3 this summer on single sciences, or 4-3 or 3-3 on combined sciences, we’d encourage you to look in detail at your entries and think about which tier students are entered for in 2019.

It’s likely that many of the students who got a 3 or a 4-3 or 3-3 in 2018 should have been entered for the Foundation tier and if they were to be entered for the Higher tier again next year they might be in danger of falling off the bottom of the tier and not getting a grade.

New 9 to 1 tiers cover a different grade range

The new GCSE tiers cover a different range of grades in the new 9 to 1 structure. For the Higher tier, the new grade 5 (equivalent to the B/C boundary) is a better benchmark than the new grade 4 (the old C/D boundary).

Don’t be swayed by low grade boundaries – the demand of the questions is very different between papers – think about how your students will cope with the split of high, standard and low demand questions on each tier of the paper.

30% of the questions are common to both tiers

Use the common questions from this summer’s exam series and our specimen assessment materials (SAMs) to test how comfortable your students are with them. For students who are on the borderline, use additional standard demand questions from the Higher tier papers to help differentiate.

Speak to your colleagues

The new exams assess maths skills, so make sure you take your students’ abilities in this area into account. If tiering decisions went well in other departments, talk to your colleagues about the strategies they’ve used to make entry decisions.

Focus on practical questions

With the removal of coursework, how well students grasp practical questions will have an effect on their performance at both tiers.

How we can help you

You know your students best and to help support your tiering decisions for 2019, we’ve put together a number of useful resources:

  1. Learn more about this summer’s exam results, grade boundaries and tiering in this short video
  2. Download our infographic for the key points to consider for tiering decisions
  3. Use our GCSE science Insight reports to broaden your understanding of the 2018 exams.

GCSE Chemistry

GCSE Physics

GCSE Combined Science (Trilogy)

GCSE Combined Science (Synergy)

Entries deadlines and fees

The entries deadline for GCSE exams next summer is 21 February 2019. However, you can change your tier of entry up to 21 April 2019 without paying any additional fees.