‘Flawed’ foreign language A-levels to be reformed

The Independent, 26/09/14, a radical shake-up of foreign language A levels has been announced, after an investigation by the qualifications watchdog concluded that the brightest candidates were being denied A* grades by inconsistent marking and poorly designed exams.

Language teachers had complained about “inaccurate and unpredictable” grading in French, German and Spanish A levels, arguing that their best candidates were often not awarded the best grades.

Concerns had been expressed for more than a decade over an unfairly low percentage of A* grades awarded in these exams, and an unexplained variability in the marking.

In response, Ofqual commissioned an investigation, which yesterday resulted in a damning report confirming that the marking and design of the exams were flawed and needed immediate reform.

The report concluded that exam boards must redesign their papers to ensure that the exams can differentiate “in a more reliable way” between the most able students.

The regulator said the likely result of the reforms would be to increase the number of students awarded A* grades.

Glenys Stacey, the chief regulator, said: “Exam boards need to make sure that assessments are designed in the right way to differentiate fairly between students. It is vital that students, teachers and other users of these qualifications can have confidence in them and know that the results are fair.”

Last summer only 6.6 per cent of students scored an A* in A-level French, 8.9 per cent in German and 7.7 per cent in Spanish. This contrasted with 17.3 per cent in maths and 10.1 per cent in classical subjects.

The report found that some mark schemes were flawed and it was often unclear what constituted a correct answer. It also found marking was inconsistent and too few excellent candidates were awarded the top grades.

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