The latest from Ofqual on 1-9

Whilst a bulletin was sent out to interested parties this week, there were no answers for teachers struggling to get to grips with what to tell their year 11 students (anecdotally I’ve seen less emphasis on predicted grades and more emphasis on what to do to improve their answers in schools).

The information did serve a purpose, and that was to remind me how my special school students have been let down by the system.  In the email we are reminded “New GCSE content will be more challenging” which is depressing for students who were struggling, because of their learning difficulties, to cope with the content of the old GCSE exams.

We are also reminded that the boundaries have changed, supposedly “The new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.”  What that means on the ground is that most of my students will fall within a two grade range rather than three. That’s hardly better differentiating between students of different abilities.

When you add these factors to the press (and government) talking about a grade 5 being a good GCSE pass and you can see why my students don’t want to take the exams.  They are made to feel that their achievements are worthless and that anything below a 5 doesn’t matter.

A government talking about expanding grammar schools has little interest in those students at the bottom of the ability spectrum, but for my students, the GCSEs are becoming less and less accessible with more exams for less recognition and lower grades.

(If you want to receive the 1-9 bulletins too you can sign up here)

Grade descriptors for the new science GCSEs – now you have all the information you need

This vital information might have passed you by – a cynic could suggest that is why this information was released on the last week of term without much of a fanfare.  Grade boundaries must be one of the most commonly asked questions about the new GCSEs.

The information is here so now we have all the information we need to accurately predict our GCSE grades for the new spec GCSEs.  The more observant amongst you may realise the significance of the graphic above.

Grade descriptors for the new GCSEs can be found here.  I’ve blogged before about the difficulty in predicting GCSE grades but you know the government was listening to our concerns by the extreme level of detail in the information they released.  To save you the effort of clicking a link I’ve reproduced this information below.

Happy predicting!

Grade descriptors for GCSEs graded 9 to 1: single science (biology, chemistry and physics) and combined science

1.Grades 8 and 8-8

1.1 To achieve Grades 8 and 8-8 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate relevant and comprehensive knowledge and understanding and apply these correctly to both familiar and unfamiliar contexts using accurate scientific terminology
  • use a range of mathematical skills to perform complex scientific calculations
  • critically analyse qualitative and quantitative data to draw logical, well-evidenced conclusions
  • critically evaluate and refine methodologies, and judge the validity of scientific conclusions

2.Grades 5 and 5-5

2.1 To achieve Grades 5 and 5-5 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate mostly accurate and appropriate knowledge and understanding and apply these mostly correctly to familiar and unfamiliar contexts, using mostly accurate scientific terminology
  • use appropriate mathematical skills to perform multi-step calculations
  • analyse qualitative and quantitative data to draw plausible conclusions supported by some evidence
  • evaluate methodologies to suggest improvements to experimental methods, and comment on scientific conclusions

3.Grades 2 and 2-2

3.1 To achieve Grades 2 and 2-2 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate some relevant scientific knowledge and understanding using limited scientific terminology
  • perform basic calculations
  • draw simple conclusions from qualitative or quantitative data
  • make basic comments relating to experimental methods



The dark art of predicting GCSE grades


It’s that time of year when I check the weather forecast before I leave the house with my dog because I don’t want to get soaked.  Generally the forecasts are accurate but if the forecast says it will rain at 11, sometimes it rains sooner and sometimes it rains later.  That’s the nature of the game – and whilst we aren’t happy about it, we accept that the Met Office have done the best that they can.  That’s the nature of a prediction.

I went in onto school last Wednesday to check my results (perks of my role).  This is only my second year of teaching GCSE science following a break of several years teaching BTEC (we only ever have one year 11 group).  You could argue that this year I had more data on which to base my predictions as I had the cohort last year as well.  My predictions were based on:

  • Mock exam result
  • Exam questions completed in class from ExamPro (so with A/C/G demand gradings)
  • ISA coursework
  • Classwork
  • Comparison to similar students last year
  • Gut feeling/aptitude

Prediction accuracy last year (numbers are percentages)

Prediction accuracy this year (numbers are percentages)


Unfortunately my predictions this year were on the high side so that my accuracy rate was lower.  I accept that I was a little optimistic for a couple of students but I had a much larger cohort this year due to Y10 and Y11 taking core together so I would have expected to at a similar level of confidence to last year.  I decided to do a bit of digging on the internet – it is surprising how little published information there is, and how many teaching professionals say they can’t predict with any accuracy.

This paper by Cambridge Assessment would suggest that teachers are better at predicting at the top end of the grade range than the bottom end. I was interested to read that accuracy is around 45% for maths and the sciences overall.  Unfortunately there is no data for special schools (we are a small group) but accuracy in the 20% range seems reasonable for students in the same ability range as my school.  This could help explain why the accuracy of my predictions dropped from last year (and would rate my predictions as better than many!)

It will be interesting to see how this picture changes with the move to 1-9 GCSEs as most teachers I speak to seem to be converting old-money GCSE grades into new rather than working natively in the 1-9 grades.  This will be compounded by the change in grade boundaries as more grades are introduced at the top end – perhaps the accuracy of predictions will flip with those grades in the 1-3 range being higher?

I’d be interested to hear how you predict your (GCSE) grades and how accurate your predictions were (you can get a matrix here if you want to crunch the numbers yourself)