GCSE combined science grading update

24 August 2018

The double grade scale goes from 9-9, 9-8, 8-8 through to 1-1. The safety net grade for combined science in 2018 was expected to be 4-3 on the higher tier. During the awarding period exam boards reported to Ofqual that while they were confident in standards set at 4-4, there were more students than expected getting an unclassified result on the higher tier combined science. When judging results against expectations based on prior attainment, exam boards believed that in some cases students should have been entered for the foundation tier. If students had taken the foundation tier papers, they would have achieved a grade. So, missing out on a grade in this way would have been unfair.

Ensuring pupils are entered for the right tier is already difficult and has been exacerbated this year by the considerable changes to the GCSE science exam structure – the removal of non-examined assessment, new specifications, linearisation and a single point of entry for all pupils in summer 2018. Details of the science grading and comparisons with legacy results across cohorts can be found in our FAQs.

In addition, see the Ofqual blog published which explains this in more detail.

We have commented on this in the media and said:

“We agree with Ofqual’s decision to lower the safety net for the higher tier GCSE science paper as this is clearly in the best interests of candidates. This is the first year of this reformed and complex qualification, and teachers will have been unfamiliar with exactly how grades will fall making it particularly difficult to enter mid-ability pupils to the most suitable tier. As teachers become more used to this qualification they will be able to enter pupils to the respective tiers with more confidence. In the meantime, the lowering of the safety net is a prudent and sensible measure.”

Read more on this issue in TES.