CRITERION REFERENCED A LEVELS
6. In 1984, the Secondary Examinations Council
advised that grade boundaries should be based on the partition
of the mark scale rather than on proportions of candidates, in
a move towards a criterion referenced system. Examiner judgement
was to be the basis for the award of grades B and E, with the
remaining grades determined by dividing the mark range between
these two points into equal intervals. This system was introduced
in 1987 and remained in force until the introduction of the new
curriculum in 2000.
7. Criterion referencing sets standards against
declared criteria of performance - the socalled 'can do'
statements. A driving test is criterion referenced. Achievement
of the driving certificate is set simply against performance and
not against an annual limited number of certificates available
in a competitive environment. The difficulties in criterion referencing
lie in the establishment of the criteria. It is relatively straightforward
in areas like science and mathematics, but not at all straightforward
in areas such as humanities and social science. It was pointed
out to the Committee that nearly all the subject areas that were
recommended for reassessment in Tomlinson's interim report were
in humanities and social science areas.
8. A levels are currently neither fully norm-referenced
nor fully criterion-referenced. Ms Tattersall, Director General
of AQA, told us that the current system used "a soft criterion
referencing ...it is a system which does reward attainment at
the more general level than some very specific criteria would
do, and I think it is a system which has served students exceedingly
well over the years".