Just over half marks needed for A in A-level maths, leaked documents show

Grade boundaries for two exam boards have been leaked the day before A-level results are published

Press Association
Last updated: 14 August 2019 - 5.10pm

Students scoring just over half marks in A-level maths will be rewarded with an A grade this summer, leaked documents show.

Grade boundaries for Edexcel’s maths A-level show students who gained 165 out of a possible maximum of 300 marks (55%) will be awarded an A.

Separate documents show that those who took the OCR exam board’s A-level maths qualification will walk away with an A if they achieved 54% across all papers – a total of 161 out of 300.

Last year, 184 marks (61%) were needed for an A grade in Edexcel’s maths A-level, while for OCR’s qualification in the subject, the required mark was 197 (66%).

  • Edexcel - 55%
  • OCR - 54%

The grade boundaries have been leaked the day before sixth formers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to receive their A-level results.

Edexcel’s parent company Pearson said that grade boundary information is shared with schools a day in advance to help teachers prepare and that the information was shared via a password-protected, secure website.

OCR said their grade boundaries are released to schools in advance and they share them with students on results day, a system designed “to minimise the chance of students feeling anxious” if they see the boundaries without their grades.

The leaked Edexcel document also shows that this summer, 43 marks (14%) would result in an E grade – considered a pass, while  just over a third of marks (34%) would mean a C grade.

For OCR, 40 marks (13%) is the required threshold for an E grade this year, while 100 (33%) is needed to obtain a C.

These figures relate to overall grade boundaries for new specification maths A-levels.

Maths is one of the last subjects to be reformed as part of a major overhaul of exams in England.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

This summer is the first time that grades for new specification A-level maths are being awarded to the vast majority of students.

Last year, just a small number of students took the reformed qualification – those who sat the exam after completing the course in just one year, rather than the usual two.

A small number of students may still be studying the old “legacy” maths A-level course.

The leaked documents also give grade boundaries for other A-level qualifications offered by Edexcel and OCR – two of the biggest exam boards in England, and there are some differences between the two.

For example, 69% (208 out of 300) in an Edexcel English Literature A-level achieves an A grade, while students taking the subject with OCR require 177 marks out of 200 (89%).

And in chemistry, the A grade threshold for Edexcel students was 202 out of 300 (67%), compared to 196 out of 270 for those taking OCR’s course (73%).

For the traditional biology A-level offered by Edexcel, 175 out of 300 (58%) was required for an A grade, while for the OCR version, the A grade pass mark was 158 out of 270 (59%)

A Pearson spokeswoman said: “Per JCQ guidelines, all boards share grade boundary info with schools a day in advance to help teachers prepare and support their students better on results day.

“Our systems are working as they should and the information was shared today via a password-protected, secure website.

“Boards do ask schools not to share this widely to avoid unnecessary stress for students awaiting their results.

“Schools are trusted to treat the info confidentially on behalf of their students and the vast majority do.”

An OCR spokesman said: “We provide schools and colleges with results information including grade boundaries the day before results day on a special site which is accessible to exams officers.

“Grade boundaries are then released by schools to their students on results day and we publish them on our website. We do it this way to minimise the chance of students feeling anxious if they see grade boundaries without their results — which can lead some to jump to the wrong conclusion.

“We are very grateful to the vast majority of exams officers and teachers who support this staggered approach.”

Grade boundary leak
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton urged students “not to lose sleep over grade boundaries” (Association of School and College Leaders/PA)

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, urged students “not to lose sleep over grade boundaries”.

“We are extremely disappointed if grade boundaries have been leaked ahead of results day,” he said.

“The problem is that anxious students will pore over this information trying to work out what this means for their results.

“This is a pointless exercise because grade boundaries are set to allow for differences in the difficulty of papers so that students are not disadvantaged from one year to the next.

“We would urge students against losing sleep over grade boundaries and to wait for their results tomorrow.”

There were reports earlier this year that some students were complaining that one of the new Edexcel A-level maths papers was too hard.

In a video statement last week, Pearson addressed these concerns, saying it was aware that some had found Paper 2 “more difficult than they were expecting”.

The board said it wanted to reassure students that independent experts had analysed the paper and confirmed it was a “fair and valid exam testing across the ability range and the course curriculum”.

This summer, questions from one paper of Edexcel’s new A-level maths qualification were leaked ahead of students sitting the exam.

A police investigation is ongoing.

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