Grade thresholds explained
We publish grade thresholds after each exam series. A grade threshold is the minimum number of marks that a candidate needs to obtain a particular grade in a paper or in a subject. Before reading the grade threshold document, there is some important information you need to know about how we set the thresholds.
How do we set grade thresholds?
A grade threshold is the minimum number of marks that a candidate needs to obtain a particular grade in a paper or in a subject. These thresholds are decided after each examination has been taken and marked. The aim in each year (or examination series) is to set each threshold in just the right place to ensure that it is no more difficult and no less difficult to obtain that grade than it was in the previous year.
To fulfil that aim we have to lower the thresholds from one examination to another if we find that the questions in a paper have been more difficult than last time (or raise the thresholds if we find the questions have been easier). This is to be fair to candidates from one series to another.
How to interpret our grade threshold tables
The table in the grade threshold document shows the thresholds taken in a particular examination series for each paper or other component that we marked (so not for teacher-marked components, for example).
The table also shows the thresholds used for the options available. An option is a permitted combination of papers or other components that make up the overall qualification. In the simplest cases, we can just add up the component thresholds to get the option threshold.
Sometimes it is more complicated:
- We may have to apply a weighting factor to the thresholds before we add them together in order to match what it says in the syllabus about the weight that we give to each paper.
- Once we have set the grade thresholds for each paper, we add them together to produce grade thresholds for the syllabus (or syllabus option for syllabuses with more than one route of assessment). The sum of the threshold marks for each paper takes into account the contribution that each paper makes to the syllabus. A small reduction to the grade threshold may be made at the higher grades to allow for the fact that a candidate may not be required to achieve a particular grade on every component in order to achieve that grade at syllabus level.
- Grade A* does not exist as a component grade. The A* threshold at option level is calculated looking at the position of the A and B thresholds as a starting point.
- For AS Level components, small adjustments may be made to the marks awarded for some versions of the paper, and to the component thresholds, in order to neutralise any differences in the difficulty of the versions taken in different countries, and so make sure that all candidates face an equal demand.
Marking and grading
Assigning grades to candidates' work is a complex process. We have put together a guide and a video to show how we ensure that all candidates taking our exams receive fair and accurate results.