How does CXC grade your exam papers ?

Submitted by Kathy-ann Daniel on 8 August 2009 - 12:07am

So really, how does CXC grade your exam papers?

As everyone who sat CXC exams this year bites their nails and waits nervously for results to "come out", an interesting discussion has come up. How, exactly, does CXC decide what grade a student receives?

Some people suggest that CXC grades on a normal or bell curve, for those who are not sure what this means, I direct you to an explanation here.

My problem with this, is that grading on a bell or normal curve been discredited a looong time ago. Not only that, CXC on its website describes, "performance standards" that students must attain in order to get a grade 1, 2, 3 or whatever. Now, in the jargon or lingo of education, once you say, "performance standards", you are talking about criterion-referenced testing.

For those of you who are not sure what criterion referenced testing is, you can get the background here.

Basically then, when CXC says there are "performance standards" you must meet to get a grade 1, it means that you are not being graded against other students who are sitting the exams at the same time as you. Rather, you are being graded against a 'standard' set by CXC for grade 1, 2, 3 and so on.

As CXC shows it, to get the grade, you must meet the standard. On their website they say:

  • GRADE I: Candidate shows a comprehensive grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and competencies
    required by the syllabus.
  • GRADE II: Candidate shows a good grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and competencies
    required by the syllabus.
  • GRADE III: Candidate shows a fairly good grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and abilities
    required by the syllabus.
  • GRADE IV: Candidate shows a moderate grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and competencies
    required by the syllabus.
  • GRADE V: Candidate shows a limited grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and competencies
    required by the syllabus.
  • GRADE VI: Candidate shows a very limited grasp of the key concepts, knowledge, skills and competencies
    required by the syllabus.

You will notice that I have underlined the key words for each grade. These are the only words that change in describing the performance for each grade. Check it for yourself: all the other words are the same.

So, according to CXC, the difference between a grade 4 and a grade 1 is how much the examiners believe you understand the subject.

This, people, is criterion-referenced testing. And it means that your grade is not connected in any way to what other people do in the exam. It is connected to how well you perform, relative to the tasks set in the exams.

The way I see it, win, lose or draw, the only person who affects your grade is you. I don't know if this is comforting news to anyone, but at least I hope it helps those students who are spending too much time comparing themselves to "the bright one in de class". News flash: "wha' dey get, ain' ha' nuttin' tuh do wid you".

De results man!!!

On another note, I wish success to all those students who are awaiting results. I know the waiting is hard... but it is almost over. In two weeks, results will be released and you can start preparing for the next phase of your life.

Don't forget, the CXC exam results have to go first to your local Ministry of Education, which will want to collect data for statistics from them. Then they will go to your schools, which will keep them for a day or two to collect data as well, before you finally receive them.

So, for many of you, you will not get your results on the 17th of August. You can expect that you may get them a week or even 2 weeks after that. Sorry if I am bearing bad news, but at least you will be prepared for the wait.

Good luck everyone!


Shabida (not verified) 11 August 2009 - 9:42pm

Hey guys,

Can anyone please tell me what is a passing grade in CXC? Most people say it's a 4 but I'm not quite sure, so please somebody reply!!!!

I really need to know, because most of my S.B.A's got messed up due to the fact that my teachers gave them really late and the deadline was soon after. So I'm worried about Biology, Information Technology and Principles of Accounts.

By the way I did 10 subjects but I'm afraid for the 3 listed above. And I'd also like to know if I can get my results online before it gets to the schools.

Thanks in advance!

Shabida (not verified) 11 August 2009 - 10:23pm

In reply to by Kathy-ann Daniel

Oh thanks Kathy, you're an angel in disuise!

Kathy-ann Daniel 11 August 2009 - 10:27pm

In reply to by Shabida (not verified)

;-) De nada, glad to help.

BEST GUEST 2014 (not verified) 14 May 2014 - 9:15am

In reply to by Kathy-ann Daniel

Hi! can you tell me what you think the grade boundaries for a grave v in CAPE is?

pray before allu set the exam. young people these days need jobs. to much prostitutes, drug dealers. please 2010 exam, make that easy........... thank you i'm working in a bank.

guest (not verified) 18 January 2010 - 2:30pm

How many papers are there in cxc Jan 2010 Biology?
For Private Candidate.

guest (not verified) 6 December 2010 - 4:45pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

I believe that there are three papers in the bio exam but I am not sure, you should check the website

youngchade38 (not verified) 11 March 2011 - 8:59am

what does ittake to get a one in spanish,chemistry,geo,bio,maths,lit,english,physics,information technology

erdna (not verified) 15 April 2011 - 12:55pm

In reply to by youngchade38 (not verified)

candidate must show the concepts needed on the syllabus

queen of the saiyans (not verified) 16 April 2011 - 3:52am

I wish CxC didn't make such a big deal of letting students know the grade boundaries. I could really benefit from knowing what grade level I am at in math now...Anyway here's my personal grade boundaries;)

Grade 1: 85% and above i.e. 85% in paper 1 and 2 (and those of you with paper 3) as well as in Internal Assessment (SBA).

Grade 2: 84%-70% i.e between 84% and 75% on paper 1 and paper 2 (and if you have paper 3) as well as in SBA.

Grade 3: 69%-55% similar to other grades' description.

Grade 4: 54%-40% similar to other grades' description.

Grade 5: 39%-29% similar to other grades' description.

Grade 6: 28%-20% similar to other grades' description.

Grade 7: Anything below 20%

I figure if you're getting 85% and up on past papers then you're certainly heading for that 1! I refuse to acknowledge that bell curve crap 'cause I really don't understand why my grade should suffer because of region performance. So, in the OP words "wha' dey get, ain' ha' nuttin' tuh do wid you" .

Ariann Jennings (not verified) 6 June 2011 - 6:35pm

how much do you have to get in multiple choice to get a grade 1 in cxc?

guest (not verified) 22 May 2012 - 9:12pm

Hey guys.
If a paper has a total of 160 marks, what is the grading scheme between those marks? For example if i get like 100..does tht considered a grade 1 or 2. What about below 80 marks? What grade is tht?

Kathy-ann Daniel 22 May 2012 - 10:06pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)


We cannot tell CXC exam candidates what grades they will receive for their exams because we do not know the "grade boundaries" for CXC exams.

What are "grade boundaries"?

Well, for every CXC CSEC subject exam, for every year, the Examiners get together and decide on upper and lower limits marks that will be assigned to each grade.

For example, it may look like this:

30% - 39% = grade VI

40% - 49% = grade V

50% - 59% = grade IV

60% - 69% = grade III

70% - 79% = grade II

80% - 100% = grade I


Since CXC does not release information on their grade boundaries, it is unlikely that anyone can tell you with certainty what grade you will receive. Any answer would be a good guess or estimation based on how well you answered the questions on the papers.


P.S. As CXC says on its FAQ page: "It is not the policy of the Council to publicise the different grade boundaries.

(scroll down to question 4.)

guest (not verified) 28 May 2013 - 3:36pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

hey if you have 100 that would be a three however 80 would be a 2.
100/160*100 = 62.5% ( grade 3)

80/160*100= 50% (grade 4 )

Guest (not verified) 3 September 2012 - 1:14am

How much impact does SBA marks have on overall grades? Is it possible to attain a grade 1, with below average performance in SBAs?

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Enter the characters shown in the image.