Reliable and transparent exam grading

12 August 2019
Posted by HMC Press Office

HMC has long campaigned for more reliable and transparent exam grading.  The problem - that different, subjective or ‘fuzzy’ marks awarded to essays often straddle hard grade boundaries - is affecting the life chances of millions of young people.

Our desire is for all pupils,  parents and teachers to be fully informed about the true reliability of exam grades and how best to challenge particularly surprising results. We wish to ensure that no pupil is unnecessarily blocked from progressing to the next stage of their lives.

HMC, along with partners, is also working to ensure that universities,  colleges and employers do not rely solely on exam grades for assessing candidates, given the particular unreliability of grades in humanities subjects.

Following the coverage of the issue in The Sunday Times on 11.8.19, see here and here, Mike Buchanan, Executive Director of HMC, said:

“Students and parents should not assume that grades are definitive. On the contrary, we know that on average, a quarter of grades are not reliable.

“This is based on Ofqual’s own data, which uses the grades awarded by a group of chief examiners as the ‘definitive’ or correct grade.

“This is clearly an unacceptable state of affairs. Behind these statistics are millions of teenagers are already under extreme pressure and whose exam grades are being used to make life-changing decisions.

“Furthermore, the system does  not encourage families or schools to question the validity of their grades. Inadequate funding in schools and the inability of some parents to pay for reviews of grades means that most of these victims will be undetected or forgotten.

“We know there are no simple answers, but we call on Ofqual, the exam boards and DfE to work with schools, HE institutions and employers to find sensible solutions. The futures of very many young people rely on it. “