Setting and maintaining standards in national examinations

Project Team: Professor Jo-Anne Baird; Dr Lena Gray (AQA), Dr Tina Isaacs (UCL), Dennis Opposs (Ofqual)

Research Assistant: Kristine Gorgen


Examination standards are not well defined in theoretical terms and this leads to problems in their public understanding, with consequent periodic crises in public confidence.

AQA, Ofqual, OUCEA and UCL are collaborating in a project that aims to describe the processes used to set or to maintain (or link over time) standards in these examinations and to explore the concepts relating to standards behind them. The project focuses on how standards in national, school-leaving or university entrance examinations are set and maintained in a wide range of jurisdictions around the world.


Since Spring 2016 the project has generated the following outputs:

The meaning of curriculum-related examination standards in Scotland and England: a home–international comparison an article by Prof Jo-Anne Baird and Dr Lena Gray.

Prof Jo-Anne Baird and Dr Lena Gray were granted a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship from the University of Oxford’s Social Sciences Higher Education Innovation Fund.

In March 2017 a three-day symposium for examination practitioners and academics was organised in Oxford.


Project presentations:

The project was presented at the 42nd International Association for Educational Assessment Conference in Cape Town in August 2016.

A Discussion Group was held at AEA Europe in Cyprus, November 2016.

“Standard setting in national examinations: what are exam standards?”– Seminar at the Department of Education, University of Edinburgh, April 2017

“Standards in national examinations – what do they mean?”- Public Seminar at the Oxford University Department of Education, May 2017

Dennis Opposs, Dr Tina Isaacs, Prof Jo-Anne Baird, Dr Lena Gray, Kristine Gorgen