UK student exam changes

Well the timing if my  blog 2 days ago (that I have been thinking about for ages) couldn’t have been better – one day after I published it the Government announces a shake up of the English exam system with the introduction of an English Baccalaureate.

The basis of the change is more rigour in the exams to tackle grade inflation.  A common criticism in the last few hours since the announcement has been that “surely we can’t have children failing exams” – this does seem somewhat daft to me because if you’re going to have a test not everyone is going to pass it, and we all don’t succeed at everything we do (at least I don’t).  However, referring to my previous blog, it is noticeable that I didn’t mention passing or failing – simply where you are in the year in terms of ability in that one subject.  With standard percentage grade boundaries there is no pass or fail, simply a position relative to others.  You can call a C or above a pass, but in reality a test just grades everyone, from 1 to 10 in the new system I believe so there is no pass/fail point. So the pass/fail criticism fails!

I mentioned two main points in my blog – standard grade boundaries and a single exam board for each subject.  The latter point has been adopted, but the former is not yet clear.  One report says that exam boards can offer ‘norm referencing’ (the term for what I suggest) rather than the current ‘criterion referencing’ where standards are attempted to be equalised from year to year (but quite clearly unsuccessfully – hence the underlying grade inflation problem).  I hope that when the proposals are firmed up in a bill brought before Parliament that ‘Norm referencing’ becomes the norm.


(P.S. Everyone’s English is going to have to improve just to spell Baccalaureate correctly without the aid of a spell checker!)

About Julian Ranger

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Posted on September 18, 2012, in REEF and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. As is often the case with this government (the Conservatives), they take one issue – grade deflation – and use it as a mandate to tackle an entirely different issue i.e. making the exams more ‘academic’. The doing away with coursework in favour of 100% exams is just daft. I’ve never taken an exam in the workplace but am judged on the work I produce every day – surely any modern day educational system should reflect that.

    • Steve – for the subjects that are bringing EBAC in for initially (Maths, English Sciences) coursework is not directly applicable, and the oft quoted problem is the distraction of too many tests en route which does hinder later developers. For subjects such as Art, D&T then coursework is key and I am sure that will be included.
      I would suggest that work and schooling are very different environments as well and the logic doesn’t flow well either way. The point of exams in the academic subjects is to show that I can learn, retain and use the knowledge – final exams do this.
      That said the method of examining is not my main issue – the main issue I have is to remove the issue of grade inflation from the problem set, so we can concentrate on improving quality all round – hence the proposals in my previous blog.

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