Do not rely on grade boundary predictions for new GCSEs, Ofqual warns

The exams watchdog has called for schools to be wary of predictions of grade boundary marks for the reformed GCSEs

Eleanor Busby

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Organisations that provide schools with predicted grade boundaries for the new GCSEs are "unhelpful", Ofqual has warned.  

The exams watchdog has urged schools not to try to predict the boundary marks in the new GCSEs in English and maths this year.

In a blog on the body's website, Cath Jadhav, associate director of standards and comparability at Ofqual, has warned that schools might be left “disappointed” if they rely on grade boundary predictions. 

The warning comes after TES revealed last year that PiXL group had been holding mock exams for 150,000 pupils in a bid to predict maths and English grade thresholds.

In today’s blog, Ms Jadhav says: “Exam boards are not predicting the boundary marks, and are rightly urging caution. Other organisations, responding to teacher requests, are far less cautious.

“Some organisations have had their member schools sitting their own mock exams and have provided ‘results’ and ‘grade boundaries’ on the basis of that exercise. That’s really helpful, yes? Actually, no.”

Ofqual acknowledged that “the big question for schools” this year is where the grade boundaries will be set in the new GCSEs in English and maths. 

But Ms Jadhev writes: “Our advice to schools would be this: do not rely on any predictions of grade boundary marks for new GCSEs next summer. They are only a best guess, regardless of any modelling that might have been done.

“If the boundaries in the summer turn out to be different, which is quite likely for all the reasons set out above, you and you students might be disappointed."

Here are three reasons why Ofqual has urged for schools to be cautious ahead of summer 2017:

1. Even in well-established qualifications, grade boundaries were not set in advance

Ofqual says it’s almost impossible to predict precisely how much easier or more difficult students will find a paper compared with previous years, and so exam boards wait until the students have taken the exam and then set the grade boundaries.

2. 2017 will see the first exams of the new GCSEs in English and maths

This will be the first time these new style papers are taken by students and so Ofqual has urged schools to be cautious in speculating about where the grade boundaries might be set.

3. Statistics will make sure this year’s students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit new GCSEs

Ofqual and the exam boards will have the full national picture – whereas other organisations will only have a sub-set of the cohort, which may not be representative of the national situation, they say. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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