Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Grade 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?

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