Pupils only had to get 18% on one GCSE maths paper despite government bid to toughen up exams

GCSE pupils only had to get just over half the marks in some papers to score a top grade, exam board documents reveal.

In several papers a score of just 54 per cent would earn a grade 7 – equivalent to the old A and considered a passport to a top university.

And in one paper a pupil could answer just 18 per cent correct and still get grade 4 – equivalent to the old C and seen as a ‘standard pass’.

These low grade boundaries were all for higher tier papers, taken by cleverer students who are expected to get a grade 4 or above.

in one paper a pupil could answer just 18 per cent correct and still get grade 4 – equivalent to the old C and seen as a ‘standard pass’

in one paper a pupil could answer just 18 per cent correct and still get grade 4 – equivalent to the old C and seen as a ‘standard pass’

in one paper a pupil could answer just 18 per cent correct and still get grade 4 – equivalent to the old C and seen as a ‘standard pass’

For this reason, the scoring begins at grade 4 – rather than the bottom rung of grade 1. Critics are astonished that students can get a good mark by getting most of the content wrong.

University of Buckingham education professor Alan Smithers said: ‘The point of tougher exams is to raise the quality of our education so that it is among the best in the world.

‘Allowing grades to be awarded on such low boundaries we are just fooling ourselves. Ofqual, the regulator, must think again.’

Grade boundary documents online reveal that for the AQA maths higher tier, only 18 per cent was needed for a grade 4. The boundary for Edexcel’s higher maths was 22 per cent, while for OCR it was 23 per cent. In the AQA biology higher paper, 54 per cent was needed for a 7.

Other higher tier papers requiring just 54 per cent for a 7 included AQA physics, OCR physics and Edexcel German. Among all-ability papers, the boundaries were higher – 45 per cent for 4 and 71 per cent for 7 in AQA computer science.

Grade boundary documents online reveal that for the AQA maths higher tier, only 18 per cent was needed for a grade 4. The boundary for Edexcel’s higher maths was 22 per cent, while for OCR it was 23 per cent. In the AQA biology higher paper, 54 per cent was needed for a 7

Grade boundary documents online reveal that for the AQA maths higher tier, only 18 per cent was needed for a grade 4. The boundary for Edexcel’s higher maths was 22 per cent, while for OCR it was 23 per cent. In the AQA biology higher paper, 54 per cent was needed for a 7

Grade boundary documents online reveal that for the AQA maths higher tier, only 18 per cent was needed for a grade 4. The boundary for Edexcel’s higher maths was 22 per cent, while for OCR it was 23 per cent. In the AQA biology higher paper, 54 per cent was needed for a 7

In AQA’s English literature it was 43 per cent for a 4 and 71 per cent for a 7. In most of the higher tier papers, the boundaries appear to have risen slightly since last year.

However, in many cases they are still lower than in 2016, before the exams were made tougher. Grade boundaries are set by the exam boards after all the marks have come in.

Yesterday, the exam boards said the grade boundaries were set at broadly similar marks to last year, and were in the ‘right place’.

Meanwhile, girls are making headway in traditionally male subjects, including maths, physics and computing. GCSE data shows a large rise in female entries to computer science.

They are also catching up in attainment in maths and physics, with the gap narrowing since last year. While boys still achieve better grades in maths, the proportion achieving at least a grade 7 – formerly an A – dropped from 16.8 per cent to 16.7 per cent since last year.

In comparison, the proportion of girls achieving the same rose from 14.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent. In physics, the proportion of female entrants achieving a grade 7 or higher rose from 39.9 per cent to 42 per cent.

 

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