Research and analysis

Investigating the relationship between A level results and GCSEs

A research paper by NFER for Ofqual looking into any relationships between attainment at GCSEs and A levels.


Investigating the relationship between A level results and prior attainment at GCSE

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The use of statistical evidence is an important part of the way in which AS and A level grade boundaries are set. This approach requires an accurate view of how many students are expected to achieve each grade given their prior attainment at GCSE. It is therefore important that the relationship between GCSE attainment and A level grades is properly understood and any weaknesses in the ways in which this information is applied are identified.


Analysis in this report focuses on four broad questions:

  1. What is the most appropriate measure of prior attainment to use within the process of predicting AS and A level grade distributions?
  2. Can the process be made more accurate by using additional information about candidates and centres?
  3. How accurate are the estimates of the expected grade distribution for each awarding organisation within each subject?
  4. What historical differences are there between attainment levels for different awarding organisations once prior attainment and other candidate and centre characteristics are taken into account?
Published 29 September 2011