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Press release | 5 November 2019

International GCSE and GCSE comparability - November 2019

Pearson news update from Sharon Hague, Senior Vice President, Pearson Qualification Services.

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As the UK’s largest exam board, Pearson understands how important it is that our centres have confidence in the quality and comparability of the qualifications that they are delivering. That’s why we continually review, monitor and adjust qualifications regularly to ensure comparability.

The Department for Education (DfE) and HMC have recently published separate findings comparing International GCSEs and GCSEs in England in 2018, which reflects much of our own recent analysis. We are pleased to incorporate the findings of these two reports into our existing work and would like to share with you how we are already taking steps to ensure comparability between International GCSEs and GCSE qualifications.

Ensuring International GCSEs are a rigorous and comparable alternative to GCSEs

At Pearson Edexcel we use common teams and processes across both International GCSE and GCSE 9-1 to ensure comparability between the two. We also recently commissioned our own research as well as independent, external research from UK NARIC. This concluded that both the design and how we assess our International GCSEs are comparable alternatives to regulated GCSEs 9-1s.

We have carefully considered the recent DfE analysis of 2018 student outcomes, which draws on a mixture of legacy and new qualifications and a mix of lettered and numbered grades with unclear equivalences.

The research shows a small difference in learner outcomes for 2018. The differences in some subjects are slightly positive (leniency), and in some are slightly negative (severity). Small variations between different qualifications and between years are normal and to be expected and the relatively small differences equate to around two or three marks on average.

The exception to this is our International GCSE English Language & International GCSE English Literature, where the coursework options will be slightly recalibrated. We adjusted coursework boundaries as part of our awarding processes in 2019, and we will continue these adjustments in 2020.

We will also complete further specific research into Mathematics outcomes during 2020, since DfE's findings are not consistent with ours for 2018 and 2019.
We will take these findings into account as we award International GCSEs in 2020 and will re-run this analysis using 2019 outcomes to ensure ongoing alignment.

Next steps

We will further share ongoing work in this area with you so that you can remain confident of comparability as a means to recognise the achievement of your students.

Learn more about our approach to maintaining standards.

Read the UK NARIC report (PDF | 115 KB)

If you have any questions please email or call us on 0161 855 7561.

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