No evidence of a decline in A-level maths standards since the 1990s


New research shows A-level maths standards have declined since the 1960s – but appear to have remained consistent over the last 20 years.

In one of the most comprehensive studies into A-level standards, mathematics experts at Loughborough University judged 66 A-level scripts from the 1960s, 1990s and the current decade.

They found a grade ‘B’ today is equivalent to an ‘E’ in the 60s, but found no evidence that standards have declined since the 1990s.

Researchers applied a comparative judgement technique that enables direct comparison of mathematical performance across different examinations – experts judged the better mathematician from randomly selected pairs of papers. Bias was eliminated by re-typesetting questions and re-writing answers in the same hand.

Dr Ian Jones in Loughborough University’s Mathematics Education Centre led the study. He said: "There has been ongoing concern that maths A-levels are getting easier.

"Whilst our study does show a decline in standards between the 1960s and 1990s, there is no evidence to suggest there has been further decline in the last 20 years."

The study was funded by AQA.

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