OxfordAQA International GCSE and A-level qualifications – a consistent quality standard

Achieving comparability - How our OxfordAQA International GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications represent a consistent quality standard over time and compared to equivalent qualifications in the UK.

How we ensure that our International GCSE and A-level qualifications are comparable and represent a trusted standard, valued by universities and employers worldwide

At OxfordAQA, our rigorous Fair Assessment approach underpins every aspect of our International GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications. This ensures all students taking our exams get the chance to really show what they can do.

OxfordAQA’s Fair Assessment approach is made up of three core principles:

  • Validity
  • Reliability
  • Comparability

This article covers how we make sure that our international exams are comparable – how they represent a quality standard that remains consistent over time and that is comparable to GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications in the UK.

Learn more about the other principles of Fair Assessment, by clicking here for more information on validity and here for more information on what makes OxfordAQA International exams so reliable.

Comparable International GCSE and A-level exams and a consistent quality standard

A qualification that students take in international schools provides evidence of achievement and enables students to progress to the next stage in their lives. It should represent a standard that has currency with universities and employers and remains consistent over time.

There are two aspects how we at OxfordAQA ensure that our International GCSE, AS and A-level qualification maintain their value and currency, equipping students with the future-oriented skills to succeed in their lives:

  1. In the case our international British curriculum qualifications, the standard of performance at each grade should be comparable to the GCSEs and A-levels currently taken in England.
  2. Grading standards must reflect the same level of student performance from one exam series to the next.
How we ensure our International GCSE and A-level qualifications are comparable to UK qualifications

Several factors contribute to the overall standard of a qualification. For example, the level of demand in the content of the syllabus and the structure of the assessments will affect student performance.

OxfordAQA’s International GCSE and A-level qualifications were developed at the same time as the reformed qualifications in England and are benchmarked to the same standard.

Our International GCSE qualifications, for example, use the same 9-1 grading system as the reformed UK qualifications, giving the best students the chance to earn grade 9, a higher recognition than A*. The comparability of our exams means that a student with a grade 9 in an OxfordAQA International GCSE has demonstrated the same level of skill and ability in the subject as a student achieving a grade 9 in the UK.

In addition, our globally-relevant syllabus content is closely aligned to the UK curriculum. Our assessments emphasise the higher-order skills that are the foundation of the new UK exams.

Our international qualifications are based on the more than 100 years of research and assessment expertise our partner AQA has developed in the UK as its largest academic awarding body.

For example, we based our International AS and A-level Psychology qualification on the UK market-leading AQA A-level taken by 80% of Psychology students in England.

With this, OxfordAQA is the only international exam board where psychopathology, including explanations and therapies of phobias, addiction and depression, is an integral part of AS Psychology, rather than only at A-level.

Sleep is also a standalone topic in the specification, representing its importance in our 24-hour world.

Based on AQA’s UK-market leading Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), we’ve developed our Independent Project Qualification, the OxfordAQA International IPQ.

The OxfordAQA International IPQ is a project-based qualification that international students can take alongside their A-levels.

By developing a range of academic and future-oriented skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and time management skills, OxfordAQA International IPQ students stand out from the crowd when applying to top universities and employers.

This means that universities and employers can have confidence that students with OxfordAQA qualifications can demonstrate the same advanced critical thinking skills as students in England and represent a comparable and high standard for the future.
Maintaining a consistent quality standard over time

The other key aspect of comparability is making sure that our OxfordAQA International GCSE and A-level exams represent a consistent standard from year to year. To be comparable over time, grading standards must reflect the same level of student performance from one exam series to the next.

We ensure comparability across time through the process of how we set grade boundaries, which is known as ‘awarding’.

This video explains how we award grades that reflect a consistent and trusted standard from each exam series to the next:

Grade boundaries are set by all exam boards after each exam to maintain standards over time and to ensure that slight variations in the difficulty of exam papers do not advantage or disadvantage a cohort of students.

This is why the grade boundaries will be different for every exam series.

OxfordAQA’s International GCSE and A-level qualifications use the same procedures and standards as our partner AQA. We ensure that our awarding judgements apply the same evidence and expertise as the UK qualifications. We do this in a number of ways. For example:

The awarding of the international qualification is scheduled as soon as possible after the award for the equivalent UK specification.

Senior examiners for the UK specification attend the awarding meeting for the international qualification and compare the quality of work across the two qualifications.

At the awarding meeting, the examiners review student scripts from the relevant UK exam to make sure they are setting identical standards across both qualifications.

The procedures for setting all grade boundaries for our Interntaional GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications are the same as for the equivalent UK qualification.

The OxfordAQA Chair of Examiners writes a detailed report to substantiate the awarding meeting’s grade boundary recommendations.

The Chair’s report contains a detailed description of the quality of the work of international candidates compared with UK students.

By incorporating these procedures into our awarding process, we ensure that the standard of our OxfordAQA International GCSE, AS and A-level exams is comparable year on year, reflecting a valued and trusted standard for universities and employers.

Go back to our overview page for our unique Fair Assessment approach

  • Fair Assessment
  • Comparability
  • Grade Boundaries