Ofqual published Review of Standards in GCSE Mathematics 2004 and 2008. Principal findings:
- The major change that affected all GCSE mathematics examinations between 2004 and 2008 was a move from a three-tier examination system of foundation, intermediate and higher tiers to a two-tier system, comprising foundation and higher only. These changes had a significant effect on the demand of the examination by changing the balance of questions focused on each grade.
- The spread of grades to be covered in each tier increased and in some awarding organisations this resulted in a rise of structuring within questions. In addition question design showed an increasing trend towards structuring of questions. Both factors made examinations less demanding over time.
- The increasing numbers of centres entering students for specifications with modular examinations highlighted a mixed effect on demand. OCR’s modular assessment design minimised the effect of the changes and allowed standards to be maintained over time, whereas AQA’s modular design (also available in 2004) fragmented the assessment and increased structuring in questions, making the examinations less demanding.
- The layout of question papers, the language used and the clarity of graphs and diagrams had all improved over the time period reviewed, providing a better quality assessment in mathematics.