A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers – study

The Guardian reports that Ofqual estimates 17% of students taking German A-level in UK are native speakers achieving about half of A* grades. 

For years the British stereotype of Germans has been that they get the best of everything, from sun-loungers to football trophies – and now it seems they have been achieving the best A-level grades.

Research published by the exam regulator Ofqual has found that German-speaking children in the UK have been sitting A-level exams in their native language – and winning a disproportionate amount of A and A* grades on offer.

The new research is good news for pupils taking this summer’s A-levels, with Ofqual suggesting it could increase the number of top grades it hands out, to ensure a level playing field between grades awarded in modern foreign languages and other subjects.

In Spanish, native speakers are almost 10 times more likely to achieve a grade A or A* than non-native speakers. Native-speaking Germans are 28 times more likely to achieve a grade A, and 11 times more likely to get an A*.

The research comes after complaints from leading schools that modern foreign languages are graded less generously than other subjects. But until now there has been no effort to account for native speakers as exam candidates.

“It is good that the exams regulator is finally getting to grips with important factors that, for many years, teachers have suspected were skewing results in A-level languages,” said William Richardson, general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of independent schools.

“In 2014 Ofqual found defects in exam boards’ design of language question papers and now we see – uniquely among A-level subjects – that native speakers have a clear advantage when entering language exams.” 

In 2016 there were sharp falls in the numbers taking German, French and Spanish at A-level, continuing a trend seen in previous years – with some arguing that the tough grade boundaries were putting students off.

Read more A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers – study

Surely this is obvious? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Obviously it’s obvious. Why do we always want to stamp on positive outcomes that result from bilingualism? It will cost us after Brexit. I presume exam boards will penalise native English speakers for doing well in English A Level, any student who had a mother with a physics degree in A level physics and any student with a parent who has a parent with an art gallery doing A level art…

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