Are Grades an Accurate Representation of Our Knowledge?

March 06, 2016

This post follows on from my Grades over Education post from last year and is based around the same concepts however is more about how the grades we get affect our lives than how grades interfere with our 'education' receiving.
I'm currently in year 11 which is the final year of compulsory education in England and it is also the year in which we take our GCSE exams. This means that I am just weeks away from beginning my exams and most of my controlled assessments and coursework has been completed, handed in, and marked. One of the most unfair things I see in the current examination process is the inconsistency in marking and difficulty of the exams themselves.

The first point I'd like to make is regarding grade boundaries. These are the numbers of marks you need to get in order to achieve certain grades. For example, the grade boundaries for my recent business studies controlled assessment meant that I had to get at least 38 marks out of 40 in order to get an A* and I am pleased to say that I was successful in doing so. In 2012 however, you only had to get 36 marks to get an A*. Does this mean that someone who gets 36 marks this year is less qualified than someone who got the same amount of marks 4 years ago? Apparently so.
According to my teachers who have discussed the matter before, grade boundaries are adjusted each year in order to ensure that certain percentages of the country get certain grades every year, hence the grade boundaries are shifted around each year in order to satisfy a quota of students achieving each grade every year. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea. If it is however I find it to be an outrage. I believe that grade boundaries should remain the same every year, no matter what the national performance is. If as a whole we perform poorly it should stay that way. The grade boundaries shouldn't be shifted in order to compensate for this and make people look more qualified that they should be.
To put this into context, let's say a maths exam was marked out of 100 and the highest anyone in the country got was 50 marks. From what I understand, this system would then cause the grade boundary for A* to be lowered below half of what the paper is out of. 50 marks would probably be about a C or D grade the previous year, however someone achieving the same amount of marks the next year would be getting an A*. Although this is a very extreme example, it is still a valid one if what my teachers have told me is correct.
Another one of the many factors I took into consideration when thinking about the accuracy of grades representing our knowledge is the fact that the difficulty of exams is inconsistent and differs every year. This makes the examination process even more unfair for it means that someone who did a maths exam last year could have had it much harder than someone doing it this year. This means that two people of equal intelligence could come out of exams with very different results just because they did the exams in different years and one year was a lot harder than another. This again is not fair.
In my opinion, the grade system should be scrapped all together and the results of exams should be more in depth than a letter or number. They should be written feedback summarising what you are good at and what you need to improve upon. This way, we would get a lot more out of exams, as would potential employers reading our resumes. In the long run I feel it would also level out the playing field and remove most of the things many people see as unfair in the current examination process, such as the things I mentioned earlier in this post.

What do you think about this matter? I'd love to hear from you so drop a comment down below with your thoughts!

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