Low-pass maths exam 'too hard'

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The Independent Online
Government advisers have criticised an exam board for making a maths paper so difficult that the pass mark had to be lowered to 14 per cent.

John Day, the chief executive of the Southern Examining Group, has been asked to meet officials tomorrow after an inquiry into the board's actions.

The unpublished inquiry report from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority investigated why candidates who scored such a low mark in one particular paper, were still awarded C grades in this summer's GCSE maths.

The paper in question was one of two set for the most able candidates and the overall mark required for a C was 28 per cent - but on one paper it was only 14 per cent.

The paper was made more difficult after government examination advisers complained that the previous year's paper was much too easy.

The report into this year's exam says it was marked too harshly and candidates were given too little credit for those questions they had attempted.

Exam advisers concluded that all the correct examinations procedures had been followed but it was not good exam practice to make the exam so difficult. The report added, how- ever, that the overall standard required for a grade C for maths was maintained because no candidate was awarded a C who did not deserve one.

Mr Day will be asked to ensure that the paper is less difficult next year and that the questions are easier for less able candidates to understand.

The report acknowledges that the mark for a C was lowered for good reasons.

It accepts that changing the mark, required to achieve different grades, is common practice, and that it is necessary if candidates are not to be penalised because an examination paper is more difficult than in previous years.