The miracle generation

For the 29th year running, we have record A Level results.

Now, given that exam difficulty is supposedly set based on previous exams, we can assume that the chances of one years results being higher or lower than the previous year should be 50:50, and would be expected to average out as such over time.

Probability of improved result year on year = 0.5.  So the probability of an improved result every year for 29 years = 0.00000000186.

I’d say those are pretty long odds.

The simple fact is that you don’t get consistent results like that from an annual cohort of 250,000 when there is so much potential variabilitiy in the difficulty of the questions each year. A 1-2% wobble each year should be expected.  So what the exam boards do is normalise the results.

If exam grades are improving that consistently it is because the exam boards – who decide where the grade boundaries are each year in order to provide this normalisation – have decided they will.  The only way to normalise is to set the boundary at a certain point at which you have a number above and a number below.  The exam boards are therefore choosing exactly how many A’s, A*’s and so on are awarded each year, and hence the ‘news’ each year of improved grades is utterly meaningless.

Regardless of whether the questions in exams are getting easier, the marks required to achieve a certain grade are certainly getting lower. It devalues the system, and subjects every cohort who have worked hard for their exams to a meaningless ‘exams are getting easier’ criticism on a day they should be celebrating.

So, I would like to present this open letter to our beloved leaders and examinations officials.

Dear Government and Exam Boards,

Stop dicking around with statistics in order to make yourselves look successful. We know what you’re doing, Universities and employers know what you’re doing, we’re bored of it, and in a few years time when pass rates are knocking on 100% you’re going to find yourself in the shit. Why do you think entrance requirements have gradually been edging up?  You’re fucking the system for no good reason. It’s bad enough as it is trying to get students to realise the pointless UCAS points system is a hopeless waste of time. I realise you’re addicted to ever bigger numbers like a banker on crack, but you’re doing it wrong.

Kind regards,


UPDATE: I wouldn’t mind so much were it not for the fact that grade inflation is becoming a serious problem for social mobility.

In other news, blondes in low cut tops are the only people passing A levels this year. Again.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Education, Media & Perception and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The miracle generation

  1. Pingback: Grade inflation as a method for restricting social mobility « geologygeek

  2. Pingback: Tips to Teachers – the system is broken | geologygeek

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