Further information on our approach to maintaining standards

For your reference, we would like to share some further details on our approach to maintaining standards and the research that we have carried out this year. 

Read more

How do we ensure maintenance of standards?

Pearson continues to use common teams and processes across both International GCSE and GCSE 9-1 to ensure comparability between the two.

We redeveloped the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE in parallel to the reform of England's GCSE 9-1 suite of qualifications, enabling us to align the content and assessment. We were also the first awarding body to introduce 9-1 grading for International GCSEs as part of our work to ensure comparability with GCSEs.

We carry out an annual screening and monitoring method to ensure ongoing alignment between the regulated GCSE 9-1. This annual screening is an activity we carry out with other awarding organisations to ensure each board’s awards are aligned to each other - in other words, one board is not more harsh or generous compared to another. We create predictions based on prior attainment and then measure the outcomes against predictions. So a student with a certain prior ability profile should achieve the same grade regardless of the specification that the student has taken - when the difficulty of the paper is taken into account.

We propose carrying out a similar screening activity for our International GCSEs within Pearson, using NPD data to guide us.

What research and analysis has Pearson carried out on the comparability between GCSEs and International GCSEs?

This year two pieces of analysis have been completed as follows:

  • Independent research conducted in April 2019 by UK NARIC (the National Recognition Information Centre) confirmed that Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs are comparable with the UK GCSEs and that grades 9-1 represent comparable standards of achievement across both qualifications.
  • In terms of design, UK NARIC states that similarities are clearly observed between the GCSE and International GCSE in relation to qualification size and duration; content; learning outcomes; and assessment across all subjects. 
  • Marking processes are in place to ensure consistency and fairness in the allocation of grades across the subjects. 
  • Our introduction of the 9–1 grading system enables greater differentiation for performance in the International GCSEs, as it was intended for GCSE 9-1. 

A Pearson review as part of our ongoing monitoring activity.

  • Pearson Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Mathematics and Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Mathematics outcomes are aligned when similar centre profiles are considered. (Marginal differences were observed from the analyses using 2018 data, and this was acted upon for the 2019 awards, which had the effect of reducing the differences.)
  • Pearson Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) English Language and Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) English outcomes and Pearson Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) English Literature and Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) English Literature outcomes showed some differences. These differences could be explained mainly by the differences in structure of the two qualifications, in particular, the coursework option available in the International GCSE. We adjusted coursework boundaries as part of our awarding processes in 2019 to reduce the differences observed, and we will continue these adjustments in 2020.