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!


admin 3 September 2012 - 3:01am

In reply to by Guest (not verified)


SBAs are typically about 20-25% of the final exam mark depending on the subject.

Yes, it is possible to attain a grade 1 with a below average performance in the SBA. It is less likely, but still possible. To get a grade 1 under those conditions, your exam marks would have to be very high.

guest (not verified) 6 March 2013 - 10:05pm

In reply to by admin

i failed my bio labs and summited is it possible to still past exams and when i write exams in june will i get a grade please respond

guest (not verified) 2 November 2019 - 10:31pm

In reply to by admin

Hi I am a form 5 student at secondary school. I am very nervous to sit cxc... If you do your sba's and get 20%. Is the cxc exam only out of 80%.

Stephnie Singh (not verified) 14 December 2019 - 11:13pm

In reply to by admin

If I have a low percentage in my Sba can I have a posssibilty that I can attain a grade 1 if I have a lot of marks in my cxc

guest (not verified) 5 September 2012 - 6:04pm

why do u guys complain its according to how hard u study or your knowledge.if you know you've studied hard and manage your time well expect a 1 or distinction.

ricardo oneil dentn (not verified) 1 February 2013 - 4:05pm

it is very hard so anyone who is doin cxc u need to study

guest (not verified) 4 February 2013 - 12:28am

In reply to by ricardo oneil dentn (not verified)

What comes on the math CXC exam.

guest (not verified) 11 May 2013 - 9:34am

if i fail paper 2 but got total in paper1 (multiple choice) what grade can i get?

andy (not verified) 17 May 2013 - 7:16am

Can an A in paper 1, and A in Labs and a B or C in Paper 2 Physics get you a one???? PLEASE RESPOND

guest (not verified) 7 June 2013 - 10:00pm

In reply to by andy (not verified)

well my teacher said that can be possible but, it depends on how the persons have done in the Caribbean, maybe the paper 2 would make you go down to a range two (2), well they always say to get a 1 you have to have two A and a B, thats what i'm here worrying about for chemistry, i did the multiple choice chem today and it was good and i got 18 out of 20 on my labs and my teacher said that is a A but, paper 2 now is a different story it make me start fret cause i cannot accept a forrest grade(3) in this hard time!

nigel (not verified) 23 May 2013 - 8:02pm

Hey can 40% possibly be 3 in maths this year? it came so hard....

Sexiiii (not verified) 24 May 2013 - 10:35pm

In reply to by nigel (not verified)

No they said for this year, 55% is the least u can get to get a grade 3, anything below is a failure sorry.

scared of math… (not verified) 26 May 2013 - 10:01am

In reply to by Sexiiii (not verified)

hey thanks for telling that 55% is the least one can get to have a grade 3...but i have a question are you sure that 55% is the least ? i think i have about 55.5% on my exams that i u think over 60% is a 3.. i felt so happy when i saw what u said but i still need to make sure that 55% and over is a 3>>>>>> how sure are u about this?

Sexcii (not verified) 26 May 2013 - 9:00pm

In reply to by scared of math… (not verified)

Yes I am sure, my mother has been marking CXC CSEC Mathematics question 11 for 5 yrs now so she knows the standards and she said CXC is raising it a bit higher, so yes dear, I know what Im talking about. And all the best, hope you get a 1 or 2.

scared (not verified) 27 May 2013 - 9:19pm

In reply to by Sexcii (not verified)

hi there, that was so nice of you to tell me said that cxc is raising it a bit higher.. what do u mean?is it still at 55 or they raise it more..i felt a bit released. u see, since i wrote that maths exams i cant study for the rest of my subjects. i felt down and like i cant say how i am feeling. i have a strange feeling recently. since i wrote maths i cant focus on other subjects. i wrote biology today, know the answers to them questions and still wrote madness, why?? because maths bothers me. u know i am studing , i am studing if i fail maths my entire future would be doomed. my parents are looking forward on me and so is my pastor and school teachers......i dont want to let them down.... if possible can i have your real name so that i can check you out on facebook or so. thanks for your consideration>>>>

scared (not verified) 27 May 2013 - 9:43pm

In reply to by scared (not verified)

hi there its me if i am not bothering you.... i have another question for you.... do u think if u a student need like 2 more marks to get a grade 3 do they gave you or are they not so kind?
ok if you check it up, u need 99 marks out of 180 marks to achieve an overall percentage of 55% but say u have 96 or 97 ( out of 180) do they gave you the 4 or 3 more marks to get a grade 3 or they dont check like that.......u know like in school when the teacher at school mark papers and a student have 48 out of 100 them teachers will gave that students that 2 more marks to pass the exam. does cxc operate like this???? u know if they do ? does anyone know if they do

Sexcii (not verified) 6 June 2013 - 5:45pm

In reply to by scared (not verified)

Hey its me again (Sexcii) ...and yes CXC is very kind, most people do not know this but CXC actually wants you to pass, when they get test papers with writing they can hardly understand they are very disappointed because they don't like giving failing grades, so the answer is yes, even if you miss by even 10 marks they would still probably give you a grade 3. Besides CXC is mainly marking for Knowledge and Understanding so even if you don't have the answer correct as long as you execute the required workings and show them that you know what the question is asking for they wont penalize you...oh and you were asking about my facebook, its you can message me anytime :)

guest (not verified) 28 May 2013 - 11:11am

In reply to by scared (not verified)

I did biology yesterday as well i'm feeling sad about the simple mistakes i made on section two, never the less just look on the bright side you still have paper 1 to make it up, i'm in the same position as you everyone is depending on me as well, but what i try to do is think about what i want to achieve,block out everyone else and think about yourself, just do not give up and stop worrying i have problems like that in exams but, what i do is drink milk lol..i did the math exam last year and got a grade three and i never finished the paper so if you have finished the paper your at a better chance of scoring more marks. Remember you can't change what you have done already but, what you can change is what you are going to do next! now just trust in God and believe that you can do all things through christ who strengthen you ok!

hey,thanks for that advise... , but i dont drink milk lol . my only BIGGEST FEAR is if i have maths in a grade 4... i did alot of work on maths i work many throught many nights ...........and guess what i cant really say how i messed up on that paper.........i feel like crying i cant even sleep at the night . right now i am on a balance i feeling like i will be having maths in 4 and on the other hand maths on grade 3. i wrote 12 subjects and what whats the use of not having maths.i cant even focus on my other subject.... althought i am keeping my hopes up , i just cant figure out where my head is from my feet.i am CONFUSED. god please help me

sherdean martin (not verified) 9 June 2013 - 6:14pm

In reply to by Sexcii (not verified)

hi,I was wondering if i get a 68percent on my SBA, about how much i will get in the results...iwas thinkng about a grade 1 or 2

Javed Saunja Jaghai (not verified) 27 May 2013 - 8:52pm

did cxc csec get rid of the curve ?

what is the boundary for Math

admin 27 May 2013 - 9:14pm

In reply to by Javed Saunja Jaghai (not verified)


Yes this is still true; CXC CSEC exam candidates individual exam papers are assessed using the criterion referenced assessment method.

There is, however, the issue of deciding what "grade boundaries" will be selected to assign candidates' exam marks to either grade I, II, III or IV for the exam.

We do not know what the grade boundary is for the CXC CSEC math exam 2013.

i am confused with the criterion referenced assessment method and the grade boundaries.. if i have an overall percent of 56 on maths... what grade am i expected to get...............

guest (not verified) 28 May 2013 - 7:01pm

if someone get high marks in paper 1 and the sba labs and don't do so good in the paper 2 what grade will that person will possibly get ?

Sexcii (not verified) 6 June 2013 - 5:47pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

The grade they get would depend on how well they did on their SBA and paper 1...which i don't know, so the only person that would know the answer to that is the person that did the paper.

shantea (not verified) 29 May 2013 - 2:08pm

all you all have to do is believe in god and pray and ask him for what you want to achieve its not that hard .. he said ask and it shall be given unto you ..... why don't you all try at it and stop complaining .... god work miracles don't forget

guest (not verified) 30 May 2013 - 1:49pm

In reply to by shantea (not verified)


guest (not verified) 29 May 2013 - 8:08pm

The only exams that I feel confident about right now are HSB, biology and english

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