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Study likely to re-ignite grade row

The debate over grade inflationat A-level is likely to be re-opened by a study confirming that students who take modular maths courses are outscoring other candidates.

An analysis of 1994 and 1995 maths A-level results, which Newcastle University lecturer Sally Taverner is to present to the British Educational Research Association conference today, shows that students on modular courses achieved half a grade more on average than those following traditional courses.

Sally Taverner studied the results of 6,700 students in 342 institutions which feed data into ALIS (the A-level Information System). She found that the academic quality of the students following the two types of A-level maths courses was very similar when judged by their average GCSE results.

Candidates who took a modular A-level in 1994 had earned a GCSE grade-point average of 6.00 (the equivalent of a B grade) two years earlier, while the non-modular students had scored 6.05. But at A-level the modular students scored 6.52 (A equalling 10, B, 8 and C, 6 and so on), while the mean score of other candidates was only 5.52.

She produced a similar pattern from the 1995 data, but also discovered that students who took the modular course offered by the University of London Examinations and Assessment Council did well in relation to their predicted scores.

"Given the alternative teaching and assessment arrangements that underpin these courses, my findings should not be seen as evidence of a lowering of standards. Rather they may reflect a difference in approach," she said.

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