Ofqual’s scrutiny of GCSE Mathematics

Tuesday 16 Jul 2013

Ofqual has today published a series of letters with exam boards about its scrutiny of GCSE Mathematics qualifications offered by the England-based exam boards AQA, Pearson and OCR in 2011/12.

This correspondence was previously released to the media in response to a Freedom of Information request that has been the subject of press reports including an article in the Sunday Times.

Some of the reporting has highlighted a letter from AQA to Ofqual where we expressed concerns about exam boards being asked to raise the grade boundary in future Maths exams.

The background to this is that students sat the end of course exams for new Maths GCSEs for the first time in 2012. The new Maths GCSEs were intended to have the same level of difficulty as the previous ones. As it takes a while for a new qualification to become established, and for teachers to become fully familiar with the requirements, students find the early exam series of a new syllabus particularly demanding. This needs to be taken into account when setting the grade boundaries for the new exams, so that students of the same ability get the same grades year on year, whether they sat the exam under the old syllabus or the new one.

The concern we were raising with Ofqual was that it would be unfair for students to get a lower grade just because they were in the year-group which sat a new qualification.