Exams regulator Ofqual has announced improvements in its marking system for languages to ensure papers are judged more fairly.
These changes follow the publication of a report assessing "quality issues" in A-level modern foreign languages, which found that a large number of questions did not differentiate between children of different abilities.
It states that exam boards need to differentiate in a more reliable way between the more able students, as well as addressing concerns regarding the design and underlying principles behind their mark schemes.
The alterations will take place from summer 2015 and changes to speaking assessments will be required in later years. No alterations are to be made to the teaching of subjects or to the way students prepare for their exams.
Exam questions, papers and mark schemes were analysed for A-level French, German and Spanish assessments from all exam boards. These were conducted by subject experts, while extensive analysis was also made of the marks students scored in their exams.
As well as failing to differentiate on the grounds of ability, problems were found in some of the mark schemes, with instances identified where the principles for deciding what did or did not constitute a correct answer were unclear.
Marks awarded for speaking were very high, the report found, while the relationship between students’ speaking marks on different assessments was also generally weak.
A number of instances were found in which the marks that students achieved in other elements of the exams (such as listening and writing) were surprisingly weak - possibly due to the design of some questions or the quality of some marking.
Glenys Stacey, chief regulator of Ofqual, said: "Exam boards need to make sure that assessments are designed in the right way to differentiate fairly between students.
"It is vital that students, teachers and other users of these qualifications can have confidence in them and know that the results are fair.
"The changes we’re proposing will do that. Those that should get the higher grades will do so - that’s only fair."
Posted by Alan Douglas