Let’s not beat about the bush, predicted grades are a problem. They are primarily used to allow Universities and Sixth Form Colleges to carry out forward planning and make offers to the students that they would like to accept.
The main problem with them: they are normally wrong. In fact, they are very wrong.
In 2019, the last year where we have real data, UCAS recorded that, of 18 year old students who sat 3 A levels
On average, students are predicted 2.35 A level grades above their achieved grades. An astonishing 9% of students missed their predicted grade by 6 or more A level grades.
These figures are taken from UCAS end of cycle report 2019.
Tutors use a range of methods to inform predicted grades, including GCSE attainment, internal assessment, school management information services, and their own professional judgment and experience.
Some schools will have more data than others, dependent on factors such as how long a student has attended the institution or how much data they have from a student’s prior school, but ultimately a tutor will make a holistic judgement based on what they know of the student.
It is worth mentioning at this point that Home Schooling Organisations, by their very distance will know a lot less about their students than home tutors, or school based teachers.
“A self-fulfilling prophecy is the sociopsychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation coming true simply because the person believes it will”
Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences,
Let’s talk about motivation. Motivation is one of the most important factors in a student doing well in their studies. Tutors in all organisations will try to foster a student’s enthusiasm and motivation. A tutor will look to reward the student’s achievements throughout their studies and offer encouragement and aspiration. Informing a student that they should aspire to an A is much more likely to encourage a student to get a B than telling a student that they should aim for a C.
This follows on to university offers. If a tutor doesn’t predict high enough grades, then students will only get offers from less prestigious universities. In addition, this will affect motivation, as an offer from the students preferred university might be the difference between them achieving those grades or not.
Consequently, there is a great deal of pressure for tutors to predict high grades and none at all for them to be entirely realistic. Be aware of this, it is important.
The last time students sat exams is now 2019. In both 2020 and 2021, we saw a step change in the levels of grade inflation. The number of students achieving the top grades has nearly doubled, putting enormous pressure on University Admissions Departments who are legally obliged to provide places for any student who achieves the criteria of an offer they have made. It also makes it much harder for universities to choose the best academic candidates. Realistically, grade inflation can’t continue, but how do you put the genie of grade inflation back in the lamp?
There are a few basic choices
As yet the Department for Education haven’t announced how they are dealing with the step change in grade inflation and until they do, it will be even harder to predict a student outcome or give predicted grades in 2022.
The take home lesson from all of this is that as a student you can’t trust that your predicted grade is an accurate assessment of your ability or exam outcome, therefore it is essential to have more than one plan for results day and that that plan should start to be made now;
Greg is the Head Of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling and has more than 25 years of experience in Distance Learning and Home Education