Exam pass rates have plummeted as a result of schools entering teenagers for multiple papers in the same subject in the hope of getting them a top grade pass with at least one of them, it emerged today.
Results show the number of A* grade passes in the English IGCSE exam - built on traditional O-level lines - has fallen dramatically from 21.6 per cent in 2012 to 7.4 per cent.
The drop coincides with at least 20,000 pupils being entered for the alternative to GCSE at the last minute to give themselves a double chance of securing a top grade pass which will reflect well in exam tables.
The practice was criticised yesterday by Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations - which offers the GCSE, who said: “We believe that entering for more than one examination in the same subject is misguided.
“It is not a sustainable way of improving performance or helping students learn - and, indeed, our grades in English are down. We believe it is better that students enter one examination for which they prepare over the full length of the course.”
Figures show the number of entries for the English IGCSE rose from 18,000 in 2012 to 63,000 this year - coinciding with concerns over the marking of the English GCSE last year when the grade boundaries were raised between students sitting it in January and June. Headteachers’ leaders say many schools lost confidence in the GCSE as a result.
“We are somewhat concerned about the practice of dual entry,” CIE said. “The increase in entries in English has been accompanied by 20,000 late entries. From what schools tell us, this can reflect late decisions to enter students for IGCSE in addition to other exams in English and so preparation may start as late as March before exams in May and June.”
The results show that the percentage of A* to C grade passes fell from 83 per cent last year to 61.1 per cent this year. The difference was most marked at A* and A grade level where the combined percentage fell from 46 per cent to 17.8 per cent.
Last month exams regulator Ofqual revealed that thousands of teenagers were being put in for multiple exams - most notably in maths where 15 per cent of candidates (90,000 people) were put in for exams with more than one board last year. Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, said there was a “fine balance” between whether the practice was in the best interests of the pupils or “demotivating them”.