Higher grades are favoured in points system

2nd December 1994 at 00:00
I would like to throw a rather different statistical perspective on the many letters and articles on exam league tables. It concerns the arbitrary nature of the points system for A-levels. The current points system awards grades as A = 10, B = 8, C = 6, D = 4, E = 2, NU = 0 with AS grades being worth half an A-level. This very conveniently allows for the use of whole numbers. What then are the problems?

It means that an E grade is worth only one fifth of an A grade. Or to put it another way, if five A-levels are taken, one grade A pass and four fails is equivalent to five grade E passes. But how does this compare with the actual marks required to achieve the grades?

There are no hard and fast boundaries, but let us say on a particular A-level an A grade is achieved by gaining approximately 70 per cent of the available marks and a grade E by 40 per cent. Thus an E grade is about 0.6 (60 per cent) of an A grade. At its lowest it would still be 40 per cent of an A grade even if the A grade were obtained with full marks. Very different to being worth 20 per cent on the point score.

The current system gives far too much weighting to the higher grades. Thus schools that have creamed off the best pupils are further rewarded by the biased grade weighting. Schools working hard with weaker candidates are penalised. If one attempts to measure the learning that has taken place, five grade Es at 40 per cent is 200 marks whereas one grade A is only 70 marks or at best 100 marks. Clearly, far more learning has taken place with five Es, but the current points system puts them equal.

CLIVE BOLTON 62a Clewer Hill Road Windsor,Berkshire

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