Targeting questions to grades in GCSE Mathematics B

For GCSE Mathematics B, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) provide grade descriptors indicating the level of attainment characteristic of grades A, C and F. These are designed to provide a general indication of the anticipated learning outcomes at each grade. All awarding bodies are issued with the same grade descriptors, the most recent version of which is given in Appendix 1. Awarders are asked to refer to these descriptors when making judgemental decisions. In addition to grade descriptors, QCA specifies that for GCSE Mathematics 50 per cent of the marks on any question paper should be targeted at the bottom two grades. The remaining marks can be allocated as individual awarding bodies deem appropriate. In AQA’s new two-tier Mathematics B specification (4302), for example, question papers are written with the mark allocation 15 per cent, 15 per cent, 20 per cent, 20 per cent and 30 per cent in mind. Information regarding what constitutes a suitable question targeted at each of the available grades is shared within the forum of an inter-awarding body committee. This committee also decides upon common coursework boundaries, which all awarding bodies must adhere to. With the transition from a three-tier to a two-tier specification in Mathematics B, there is evidence that the orthodoxy of targeting questions to grades has hindered the awarding process, with awarders having pre-defined expectations of the difficulty of questions targeted at particular grades. The purpose of this paper is to assess how targeted questions perform, and whether it is advisable for awarders to draw on information regarding targeted questions when making judgemental decisions.

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