For your exam to have real value, our examiners need to apply a consistent standard of marking each year. This way, you, employers and colleges can be sure that, for example, an A grade in a particular subject is awarded at the same level of difficulty, regardless of when you took the exam.
How do you make sure that grades are worth the same every year?
|When examiners write a question paper they try to make sure they are of a similar standard to previous question papers. However, they can’t know before the exam is taken how students will do in a particular exam, or which questions they'll find easy or hard in comparison to previous question papers.
So, once all the papers have been marked, senior examiners decide grade boundaries – the minimum mark you need to get a certain grade. This helps maintain standards from year to year, as it takes into account differences in question paper difficulty.
How are grade boundaries awarded?
Senior examiners meet to look at all student results for each subject, and work out the number of marks needed to get certain grades – bearing in mind the difficulty of that paper. The grades the examiners consider are called the judgemental grade boundaries and vary for each qualification.
- For most GCSEs, the judgement grade boundaries are grade A, grade C and grade F.
- For an A level, the judgemental grade boundaries are grade A and grade E.
Once the judgemental grade boundaries have been determined, the remaining grades are divided evenly between each judgemental grade boundary. So for an A level, the B, C and D grade boundaries are evenly spaced between the judgemental grade boundaries of A and E.
Why are question paper marks different from final marks?
For example, say a student took a paper in January and was given a mark of 43/50. Then another student took the same paper in June and got the same mark of 43/50. If the paper in January was slightly harder, then the mark of 43/50 in the June exam series wouldn't reflect the same level of achievement as the mark of 43/50 in the January exam series. We need a way of comparing the same mark (in this case 43/50) that reflects the slight differences in the difficulty of question papers. Therefore, we convert ‘raw’ question paper marks into UMS (Uniform Mark Scale) marks.
In this example, the mark of 43/50 on the June paper would convert to fewer UMS marks than the mark of 43/50 on the January paper, because the January paper was shown to be more difficult. This mark conversion makes sure your final marks reflect the standard needed to achieve a particular grade. Your results slip will show your UMS mark.
Convert your raw and UMS marks by downloading our mark converter
Are grade boundaries fixed?
The UMS grade boundaries are fixed so they are the same for each exam session.
The raw mark grade boundaries may change for each exam session. If you request a copy of your marked paper, your raw mark will be on the front. You can also ask your exams officer for your raw marks for each exam.
When can I find out what the grade boundaries are?
Grade boundaries and other exam-related statistics are published the day before you get your results.