This shows us that on average, across all qualifications for English and Maths, across all exam boards, the grade boundaries increased by 1.5%, so got harder by 1.5%.
What does this tell us? This tells us that pupils were able to achieve more raw marks. The more raw marks in the exams, the more raw marks in the controlled assessments, the higher the boundaries will be as there can only be a certain percentage of pupils that achieve at each grade.
Ofqual has strongly implied that the first year of new courses will have slightly lower boundaries, with the second year boundaries increasing. This is in line with the way they set boundaries using comparable outcomes. When you think about it, it’s pretty logical that this would happen. Teachers had a brand new specification, assessment model, and grading system impressed on them in 2016, with a very short time to prepare for the changes. Therefore, raw mark scores weren’t that high. Then, as teachers always do, they learned from the process. They rewrote resources to better suit their pupils, learned how to improve performance in the exams by crowd-sourcing and developing better methodologies and practices from teaching communities, etc. So, when it came to the 2018 series pupils were better prepared to sit the exams, just as teachers were better at delivering the specification. So, with more raw marks achieved, more pupils doing better, the higher the grade boundaries as a result.