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A-level marking.

SIR - One of the qualifications I hold is a certificate in further and adult education. It taught me that examinations were usually either criteria-based, (having a predetermined pass mark) or they were norm-referenced, (where the spread of results from the lowest mark attained to the highest mark attained were distributed over a Gaussian or Normal Distribution Curve).

With the norm referenced system there is no pass mark, because each student is allocated a grade determined by where their attained mark falls on the Normal Distribution Curve. We were taught that A-levels exams were marked using norm referencing. One of the interesting characteristics of norm referencing is the relationship between the number of students attaining a particular grade, and the number of students sitting the exam. If there is a year-on-year increase in the number of students sitting a particular A-level examination, there will be a year-on-year increase in the number of students attaining A-level grade A in that examination. Like the horse and the cart one will always follow the other.

Of course one of the other interesting characteristics of this system is that year-on-year variations in examination standards have no effect on the resulting grades. Good isn't it?


Ynys-hir, Coed-y-cwm, Pontypridd
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 20, 2004
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