New Grading System in IGCSE

Pearson Edexcel have introduced a number of changes in IGCSE Exams they offer, one of which is the grading system. In their online brochure, Edexcel say they contacted with teahers and learners and planned the changes according to the feedback they obtained. These changes are taking effect starting January 2017. Hence students sitting IGCSE exams next May-June will get their grades based on the new scale.

In the UK, it has been a matter of discussion that the current A* – G scale was not sufficient to measure students’ achievement, especially when majority of students got at least a C. The number of students who got an A or A* are also above the expectations. On the contrary, the recent results (2015) obtained from PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) was seemingly not as successful. Mainly these results triggered the changes, and it also affects the IGCSEs; afterall, how could the international students be evaluated according to the A*-G system, when the universities and companies would be used to the 9-1 system?

pisa data

Students’ performance in the UK – just average


Below is the alignment of the current grade scale with the new one. The grades A* and A align with grades from 9 to 7, which means there will be three grades (7,8 and 9) instead

grade scale

Grade B and C are aligned with grades 6, 5 and 4. As in A*-A alingment, two grades (B and C) are replaced with three grades (6, 5 and 4) for better assessment. As C is the passing grade in the current scale, it will be 4 in the new system. Grade 5 seems to be treated like C*, or a better C. This grade will also be the top grade for Foundation IGCSE exams.

The grades that require students to re-take the exam, namely, D to G are reduced to 3 to 1, as it seemingly does not matter much to measure that level of success.

The new scale indirectly shows that the new IGCSEs will be slightly harder and demanding. In Maths IGCSE, it is not the amount of content to study, rather the way the exam is designed. There will be more questions designed to measure high level thinking and problem solving skills. Hence English knowledge, especially the reading skill will be more important.

In North Cyprus context, I believe students will increasingly decide to sit Foundation IGCSE Maths Exam. Currently, almost all students sit Higher IGCSE Maths Exam because they, as well as their teachers, think that a 30% from the Higher Tier is easier to get than a 70% from the Foundation Tier. While it may sound reasonable, this trend will tend to change as the Higher Tier will be more demanding. Students will find Foundation Tier better fit to their needs.

I believe schools should adjust the teaching they provide to more tailor-made, student-centred apporaches. Maths teachers should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each student and take necessary precautions in collaboration with English teachers to ensure that that capacity of each student is truly reflected. Follow-up is also important; teachers should ensure students’ progress.

As with private tuition, parents should be aware of their child’s needs and demand a tailor-made service from private tutors. If possible, they should seek one-to-one tuition rather than group tuition. It is also important to ensure the quality of the service; more affordable choices may serve well as a support for school, however exam preparation is not only about learning the content, it also includes the grasp of techniques and ways of appoaching questions, of which only an expert may provide.

You may find more about the new IGCSEs on the links below:

  1. devonline.com – Questions and answers

  2. Pearson Edexcel – latest updates

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