Pupils who choose to study rigorous subjects such as foreign languages, maths and science at GCSE and A-level are being unfairly graded, according to exam regulator Ofqual. In contrast, it is much easier to achieve top grades in subjects that are considered 'softer'.
Ofqual is discussing the possibility of a complete overhaul of current exam grading systems to ensure that pupils who study tougher academic subjects aren't losing out when it comes to applying for university.
The regulator's chiefs have, for the first time, admitted that it's much more difficult to earn top grades in maths, science and modern foreign languages than it is in so-called 'softer' subjects like art.
Research by the exam regulator highlighted the fact that grades achieved in different subjects aren't necessarily comparable as the standards between them can vary. The most difficult subjects at A-level, such as science, technology, maths, further maths, modern foreign languages and Latin, are nearly two grades tougher than the easiest. These are listed as media studies, communication studies, film studies, graphics, photography and textiles.
At GCSE level, the hardest subjects such as modern foreign languages, Latin and statistics are about half a grade harder than the average. The easiest subjects, including physical education and child development, are about half a grade easier.
Ofqual's research showed that if the same standards were applied to all GCSEs, there would be an 11 per cent rise in A grades for further maths and a nine per cent rise in A grades for German. It has now launched a consultation about the steps that could be taken to realign different subject grades.
Posted by Theo Foulds