The exams regulator Ofqual has warned schools to prepare for “more variability” than usual when AS-level results are published next week.
The results, to be published on 18 August, will be the first since some AS levels were “decoupled” from full A levels, meaning that results in the exams will not count towards final A-level grades.
A report from Ofqual, published today, says results in the 13 newly decoupled subjects had been “relatively stable” in previous years. However, it adds: “It is likely that there will be more variation in individual schools and colleges in 2016…particularly in the 13 subjects that are awarded for the first time in 2016.”
Entries for AS levels have fallen by about 20 per cent since 2015 in subjects where the results will no longer count towards the final A-level grade. Entries in English language and literature are down by about 30 per cent but in computing they have fallen by just 10 per cent.
Cath Jadhav, Ofqual’s associate director for standards and comparability, said in a blog post today that changes in the number and ability range of pupils taking the AS level exams would be taken into account when exam boards awarded grades using an approach known as “comparable outcomes”, which aims to prevent grade inflation by using statistical predictions, based in part on GCSE results, to set grade boundaries.
Exam boards 'not slaves to predictions'
“For example, if there are far fewer students taking AS, but this year’s cohort had higher GCSE results, perhaps because weaker students were not being entered for AS, the predicted percentage of students achieving grade A [which is used to determine roughly how many students will achieve that grade] would be higher to reflect that,” she wrote in the blog.
“On the other hand, if more able students are not entered for AS, the predictions for the percentage achieving grade A would be lower.”
She said exam boards “won’t be slaves to the predictions” when setting grade boundaries for this year’s AS levels, although she also said they would need to justify any grade boundaries that were different from those dictated by the statistical predictions based on pupils’ GCSE results.
“Senior examiners will look closely at the grade boundaries suggested by the predictions and they will be asked if those grade boundaries are acceptable,” she said.