One in five SATs results is incorrect claims Ofqual

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A report from Ofqual has revealed that 17.4 per cent of grades awarded in English reading tests could be wrong because of inconsistencies in marking and flaws in the test design.

As a result, Ofqual is considering issuing cigarette packet-style health warnings alongside results in SATs, GCSEs and A-levels to serve as a reminder that grades cannot be totally accurate.

The findings will strengthen the resolve of teaching unions to stage a repeat of the testing boycott that saw 25 per cent fewer pupils take SATs this summer.

The tests are supposed to be taken by all 11-year-olds in maths and English.

According to the Ofqual report, 1,387 pupils who sat a sample reading test in 2007 had only an 82.6 per cent chance of being graded correctly.

The accuracy of the grading was measured by analysing the given result using a series of statistical formulae.

The chances of receiving an incorrect grade were substantially higher for pupils on the borderline between grades.

Pupils on the line between levels two and three, for example, had only a 37 per cent chance of being given the right level, it emerged.

If these pupils were to have taken another similar but completely reliable test, 63 per cent would have been given a higher level.

Further analysis showed that only 70 per cent of the 1,387 pupils who took the English reading test achieved the same grade when they took a separate but similar test.

Reading test results are combined with writing to give an overall English mark.

Teachers fear that the results for writing are even more variable than reading. Maths is less vulnerable to marker error.

Ofqual suggested that, in future, grades in public exams could be accompanied by figures giving an idea of the likely inaccuracies involved - a practice that is already widespread in the U.S.

Ofqual is looking at grade accuracy in GCSEs and A-levels as part of an ongoing study into the robustness of exams.