Exam results: apply percentages, if you know how

There was an article in today’s Metro (and so no doubt the weekend news) about the sorry educational state of today’s school-leavers, and the need for them to grasp the basics of maths and English, including useful stuff like percentages.

The fact that a higher percentage of people each year are achieving the top grades is undermining the currency of school qualifications. This year is the 24th successive year in which the A-level success rate has gone up.

A Metro-published letter from Platteen Tsang (no doubt a recent A-level success story) suggests that critics of this are "jealous of the teenagers’ performance". I have to disagree.

In my view, the examination boards themselves need to use applied knowledge of percentages, assuming they have such knowledge of course. Given that the overall intelligence of the population isn’t likely to change significantly from one year to the next, and given the importance of a stable currency in the field of education, wouldn’t it make sense if across the country, the percentage of papers receiving a given grade for a given subject were standardised? The top 15% of A-level English papers should receive an A, for instance?

That way, each grade would measure its recipient against his or her peers, as opposed to against an ever-sliding and ever more meaningless scale.

By Dan on 20 August, 2006 · Posted in Government

4 Comments | Post Comment

Mario says:

Nice to see what peeps can really do rather than which exams they can pass


5 o levels

Posted on August 22nd, 2006

Dan says:

I completely agree, “Mario”. But the only real currency you have when you finish school is qualifications, so I think it’s important that they carry some clout.

Usually, however, you’re only as good as your last achievement, so my A-levels carry little (no) weight now.

Experience is everything. I think we’re doing coffee one day soon-ish…

Posted on August 22nd, 2006

elise says:

if i follow you correctly, you’re suggesting using a grading curve. i absolutely hated teachers who used those. you could get an absolutely fantastic score, yet a lower grade, because others had scored perfectly. likewise, there were tests one could ‘flunk’ yet receive a passing grade for.

might be better to just make the grading scale a bit tougher, rather than pit students against their peers.

Posted on August 22nd, 2006

Dan says:

I am indeed suggesting a grading curve, young lady. I’m not suggesing that it gets used at the school-level, but at the country-level. That way, when you’re doing mock exams and the like, you can establish where you’d be likely to sit and be graded.

Aggregating at such a wide level would not give students any surprises; instead, it would give a level of predictability…

Posted on August 22nd, 2006