How have GCSE pass rates changed over the exams’ 25 year history?

Amidst the news of the abolition of GCSE and their replacement by the EBacc, the Guardian has a detailed analysis of what actually happened to GCSE pass rates over their 25 year history. Here’s an extract or click the link at the bottom for the full analysis with more charts…

GCSE grades over time from the Guardian

Since their introduction GCSEs have been criticised over perceived grade inflation. The proportion of entries awarded grades A* to C rose every year from 1988 to 2011, falling for the first time – from 69.8% to 69.4% – in 2012.

The percentage achieving grade A* or A also climbed every year until 2012. 2.8% of GCSE entries were awarded the A* grade when it was introduced in 1993, but 7.8% – or almost one in twelve – were given the top grade in 2011.

Of all core subjects, the sciences have seen some of the largest improvements in grade attainment. The pass rate, or proportion of entries awarded a C or above, for Biology rose from 60.5% to 93.1% between 1993 and 2011.

The pass rate for science double award – where pupils studied aspects of Biology, Chemistry and Physics and received two GCSEs – almost doubled between 1993 (46.1%) and 2010 (87.2%) when it was discontinued.

The cause of such improvements in achievement has always been debated, and research published earlier this year by Ofqual found that exams had become easier in the last ten years.

The number of GCSE entries has fluctuated since 1988, but shows little sign of a clear trend. The total across all subjects declined steadily from 2007 to 2011, but picked up in 2012, rising by 73,000.

More at: How have GCSE pass rates changed over the exams’ 25 year history?

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