bookmark_borderGrade inflation

Writing Exams
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead

The English GCSE results are out.

Shockingly, 21.6 per cent of grades were awarded an A* or A, and more than 67.1 per cent of entries were at grades A*-C. [A* is a English invention because too many pupils were getting an A.]

This makes a mockery of having an international scale of grades.

In Denmark, where the A-F scale was introduced recently (disguised as the -3–12 scale), there is a target percentage for the number of pupils getting each grade:

A 10%
B 25%
C 30%
D 25%
E 10%

In that way, you can avoid grade inflation. Even if the questions get easier, it’s still only the brightest 10% that get an A.

Sadly, in England it seems to be the case that the grades are linked to the proportion of correct answers: A* – 90%, A – 80%, B – 70%, C – 60%, D – 50%, E – 40%.

That means that if the questions get easier, the proportion of pupils getting an A goes up.

This leads to grade inflation, and it also leads to some subjects being much better for getting an A* than others.

Just look at the figures!

If we look at Chemistry, the percentage of pupils getting A* has risen from 7.5% in 1994 to 23.1% in 2008.

Also, these 23.1% compare with only 3.9% getting an A* in Home Economics in the same year, so if you’re trying to get as many A*s as possible, it’s definitely worth studying this table before choosing your subjects.

I don’t see why it has to be like this.

Why not just assign a percentage to each paper at first, then pass all these markings to some central authority that could then work out exactly which percentage that would lead to 10% getting an A, 25% getting a B, and so on, and only then tell the pupils which grade they got?