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Examining the impact of tiered examinations on the aspirations of young people

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Benton, Tom 


Tiered examinations are commonly employed within GCSE examinations in the UK. They are intended to ensure that the difficulties of exam papers are correctly tailored to the ability of the candidates taking them; this should ensure more accurate measurements and also a better experience for candidates as they do not spend time addressing questions that are either too easy or too difficult given their level of skill. However, tiered examinations have also been criticised for potentially damaging the aspirations of young people entered for lower tier examinations by placing a limit on the grades they can achieve. This article explores the extent of the link between GCSE entry tier and aspirations and also investigates the extent to which this link can be explained by differences in achievement and background characteristics of pupils.

The research makes use of data available from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) linked to information available from the National Pupil Database (NPD) regarding the qualifications achieved by pupils and also their entry tier at GCSE. Analysis was completed using a combination of multilevel modelling and propensity score matching and showed that differences in aspirations between pupils entering different tiers can almost entirely be explained by differences in background characteristics.



Evaluation of assessment, Impact of assessment, Examination statistics

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Research Matters

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Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment

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