How Do Grade Thresholds Work In Cambridge Examinations?

How Do Grade Thresholds Work In Cambridge Examinations? 1

Ever wondered how you’re awarded grades for your CAIE exam? All over the world millions of students appear as candidates for the Cambridge International Examinations. Cambridge International receives over 8 million answer sheets every year. All sheets are to be marked and graded equivalently so that every student gets a fair result.  

The checking process:

caie examiner checking exams

After the exam, all the papers are sorted out and sealed into packages which are then sent back to Cambridge Assessment International. Most of the answer sheets are scanned and then sent to examiners electronically. The examiners mark these papers on a computer. Some exams are marked on the paper by examiners, whereas the Multiple Choice Question exams are checked and marked automatically by a computer.

The examiners hired by Cambridge are all experts in their field of knowledge and are of the same required standard which ensures that all the papers are marked in the same manner. They mark the papers according to the marking scheme which is provided to them by Cambridge.

The marking scheme allows proficient checking of the papers. A group of competent and senior examiners settle down and mark sample papers according to the marking scheme. These papers are set as an example for other examiners to use and check the answer papers accordingly. Before starting the actual marking of the exams, the examiners are tested to ensure that they apply the marking scheme accurately. 

Firstly, every examiner marks the same scripts as the senior examiner team to guarantee that they understand how to mark the rest of the papers according to the marking scheme. Then another set of answer scripts are provided to them which they mark as a test. They are constantly monitored by the senior examiners to make sure that they are marking correctly. 

How are grading boundaries set?

Marks are turned into grades by setting grade boundaries. The grade boundaries define the minimum score required to get a grade. The difficulty of the exam is also put into consideration while defining the CAIE grade thresholds. With the help of statistical data and experts, the grade boundaries are set.

Exam difficulty is a factor that helps determine the grade boundaries. The difficulty of the exams does not vary much but can be slightly different than the previous years. To counter this problem grade boundaries are used. Each year for every subject component a grade threshold table is prepared. The grade is not defined upon the component grades, it is based on the overall marks of all the components of a specific subject. Once the grade threshold is set for every component, they are added up to produce a threshold for the whole subject syllabus.

The Cambridge O/A-Level has a grading scale from A* (the highest grade) to E (the lowest grade). A* does not exist on the level of separate components but is only given as a grade for the whole syllabus. Every subject grade is calculated separately and the results are given without calculating a Grade Point Average. For AS-Level, the grade boundaries may need to be readjusted due to the slight difficulty difference in a specific paper component. This ensures that all candidates receive fair grades. For every examination series, a separate certificate is provided. The candidates are given a grade only if they pass the exam.

Some days after the exam, the grade boundary tables are uploaded for every subject in the exam series. The grade boundary table for each subject is available on almost every past paper website. The grade boundary file is the one with ‘gt’ as the resource type in the file name.

caie resource code reading guide
source by GCE Guide

Once the grade boundaries are set, they are applied to each paper. The final checks are carried out by senior examiners, and then the results are announced. For the November examination series, the results are announced in January whereas, for the June examination series, the results are announced in August. 

How were grades awarded for May/June 2021, during COVID, using School Assessed Grades?

caie during covid-19 pandemic

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Cambridge exams in some countries were not conducted as scheduled and had to be cancelled. In efforts to save the academic year from going to waste, grades were awarded to students based on School Assessed Grades. Each school was asked to provide assessed grades based on the student’s performance throughout the year. The schools also had to provide Cambridge with evidence of the student’s latest work, such as term tests, mid-term and final exam results along with class assignments. Schools were requested to submit a portfolio for every student, one for each subject they were appearing for.

The schools were asked to share the details of their grading process and the ones which deemed fit to the standard of Cambridge International were used to award grades to candidates. This opportunity was only given to the ones, who had already applied for that particular examination series. No new applications for that specific examination series were accepted by Cambridge. By using this procedure, students were provided with the fairest results possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In countries where the pandemic situation was not worse, exams were conducted physically. A few temporary measures were introduced but this was valid for the June 21 exam series. These measurements included adjustments, exemptions from specific components, and expanded special considerations – into the Cambridge exam requirements so that as many students as possible can access the exams. The candidate had to appear for at least 1 component of a subject in order to receive a grade. Students taking Cambridge International exams were not systematically advantaged or disadvantaged compared to students whose grades were determined using the school assessment grades process.