2022’s A-level Grades aren’t real, but then again they never were….

Unsurprisingly this year’s 2022 A-Level results are considerably worse than the previous two years with only 82.1% of entries gaining a grade C or above compared to 88.2% in 2021.

This is because this year’s results are based on students having sat actual exams rather than the results from 2021 and 2020 when the results were simply taken from what is euphemistically referred to as ‘Teacher Predicted Grades’, although maybe ‘Teacher Fantasy Grades’ would be a more accurate term.

The overall results haven’t slumped all the way back down to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the last time students sat actual exams under normal conditions, but they are around half way back to where they were…

I want to say this ‘feels’ about right – it feels right that we are now back to half way between 2019 and the ‘fantasy grades’ of 2020-2021 which were gifted by teachers – and it feels right because students had ‘advanced information’ this year so that they knew some of the specific topics they would be tested on in their exams.

So it makes sense that the grades are better than the previous norm.

But one of the most interesting quotes surrounding this year’s results is from Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual….

To my mind this implies that Ofqual has simply set the grade boundaries for this year so that they fall midway between last year’s fantasy results and the last set of pre-pandemic results.

NB – this setting of grade boundaries is done AFTER all the papers have been marked in terms of number grades and the A* to E boundaries are stretched to broadly fit last year’s percentages, so in normal years we’re unlikely to see a radical spike or fall in the amount of any students getting certain grades.

And what they’ve done here seems to be pretty much the only thing they could have done to stop the whole exam system losing credibility – bring them crashing back down to 2019 levels and it makes the Teacher Predicted Grades into literal Teacher Fantasy Grades (which they are but us humans are quite good at kidding ourselves), keep them the same as last year and it makes a total mockery out of the pre-pandemic standards.

So they are left with a ‘staging year’ – bring the results 50% back down and then next year we’ll be back probably to within 1% of 2019 levels with ‘credibility restored’.

Do A-level Results lack validity..?

Well clearly YES, SOME of the teacher-given results from 2020 and 2022 are just false – they are NOT what some students would have achieved under regular exam conditions and the teachers and students probably knew this.

This year’s results have more validity than the previous two years because at least students sat some kind of test – in fact I’m inclined to say that maybe the 2022 results have MORE validity because students had an idea what was coming up – meaning they could be better prepared for the exams, rather than having to take a broad-based approach and revise EVERYTHING less thoroughly.

If we look at the last FOUR years of results taken together what they really lack is RELIABILITY – students not being assessed in the same way across any of the four years 2019-2022 means we can’t compare results fairly from across these four years.

But is this a problem….?

It most certainly is for universities who will currently have students on their courses who shouldn’t be because of TFGs – and I think this years’ cohort who just got their 2022 results will be negatively affected too as they are having to compete probably harder with a higher proportion of students with TFGs who would have deferred from last year.

And employers are going to have a mess with figuring out who the best candidates actually are because they can’t make accurate comparisons between 2019-2022 A-level graduates based on their grades which are measuring different things.

However let’s not forget that education has a value in itself, an intrinsic value and exam results are only a small factor, and in the grand scheme of things the important thing is that all of these students over the last four years would have learnt hopefully some useful knowledge, it’s only their paper results that are messed up, and that’s not the end of the world!

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