Pass Or Fail?

Qualification A- pass rate 96%

Qualification B- pass rate 44%

The charts above show the history of pass rates for two qualifications.

One is a highly respected, highly prized qualification that opens career doors all over the world.

The other isn't.

Can you guess which is which?

Here are some clues. Qualification B where the pass rate has plummeted from 95% to 44% is clearly in Big Trouble. What's more, the people who run it are apparently so complacent that they blame the failure on their candidates! Just listen to the way they talk:

"The pass rates have dropped rather dramatically over time. [And] if we were to include the approximately 25 percent of enrolled candidates who do not sit for the examination each year (no-shows), pass rates would be dramatically lower still... Falling pass rates reflect... the expansion of the candidate pool and deteriorating preparation habits."

Can you believe that? Talk about negativity!

Now, just compare that to the Can-Do Attitude of the man behind the high success Qualification A. He says:

"My gut instinct is that those who take the position that standards have changed would really like to see us go back to the old system when only certain proportions of students could achieve a grade A, B, C or whatever, which meant that, say, only the top 5 per cent in any year could get an A grade and therefore go on to university. To have kept that system would have been absurd."

Absurd indeed.

Which is why the 96.4% pass rate A Level is in terminal decline, scarcely worth the multiple choice paper it's written on. Whereas the 44% pass rate Chartered Financial Analyst qualification is one of the most sought after bits of paper in the world.

The CFA shows what happens when soaring candidate numbers meet a real determination to maintain standards: far from simply limiting the proportion of passes, the CFA has been so focused on standards it has allowed the proportion to fall. The fact that the A Level examiners haven't even kept their old fixed proportions underlines just how far their standards have slumped.

(See this blog for more from Dr Ken Boston, the educational administrator currently in charge of A Level standards).

PS For those interested in the A Level standards debate, it's well worth taking a look at Y Safle, which describes itself as "pretentious waffle from Wales", but is in fact a great source of analysis of A Level results and grade inflation. Not to mention some terrific charts (one of which is reproduced above). And thanks too to pommygranate who drew our attention to the falling CFA pass rate.

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