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!


Melly (not verified) 7 June 2013 - 10:17pm

I am wondering about my maths results. The other night I had a dream that I got a grade 15 in maths, I knw that is not possible but I am wondering if that is a sign that I did bad. I hardly answered questions on that maths paper. But I did all my multiple choices.

guest (not verified) 9 June 2013 - 11:35am

In reply to by Melly (not verified)

well if your good on the multiple choice you can get a grade 3 cuz i did the math exam last year and i got a grade three straight (c) profile and i never d noting on section 2 and i did one and two stuff on section 1.. just hope for the best and stay positive

guest (not verified) 9 June 2013 - 8:15pm

Does paper 1 really decide if you pass or fail?

guest (not verified) 10 June 2013 - 5:54pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

that what i'm here thinking about,cuz paper one test only for knowledge and comprehension, and it has the most mark for that area so maybe

guest (not verified) 20 May 2015 - 9:17pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

Did you ever get an answer to that question?? "Does paper 1 really decide if you pass or fail?" I would like to know as soon as possible..Thank you.

Roxy (not verified) 15 June 2013 - 5:40pm

I did very well on my chemistry sba and I tried my very best on the exam, do u think there might be a chance I can get a grade three??

guest (not verified) 5 July 2013 - 1:18pm

What percent do you guys estimate a 1 in cape to be and what grade could be 65%?

guest (not verified) 13 August 2013 - 8:53am

In reply to by guest (not verified)

65% is a 3 and a 1 is either 81% or 91% or above

guest (not verified) 7 July 2013 - 11:16am

what was the pass mark for a 3 for history for previous years?

guest (not verified) 30 July 2013 - 11:19pm

if i got 50% on my english A exam this year could a get a grade 3?

guest (not verified) 13 August 2013 - 8:55am

In reply to by guest (not verified)

u got 4. A GRADE 3 IS 55% TO 66%

cud someone plz tel me why people underestimate cxc range 3? i mean, from range 1 to 3 are the accepted grades so wats d criticism for? yeah i know we cud work harder but at least its better than a range 4,5 or 6. look, i got 5 range 3s and am proud as i had no intention that i would pass them so screw all the criticizers!! hmmm smh!!

guest (not verified) 14 August 2013 - 5:19pm

hey can anyone tell me the range for a grade 1 in english A?

also are all the ranges the same for all subjects? as in, if 55% is a 3 in math, is it a 3 in all others?

lastly, do cxc change grades? i saw on my results page where it says all grades are subject to change.

guest (not verified) 3 January 2014 - 8:20pm

ok, ppl are sayin that 55% is a grade 3! what makes up the 55%?, the paper 2 and paper 1 or just paper 2?

samantha (not verified) 16 April 2014 - 10:48am

hello ,
I sat human and social biology in Jan, 2014 . My results was a grade (4) . I beleive the marker was not fair . Would it be worth it if I appeal for a review ? I get a (B) in knowledge and understanding and (E) in use of knowledge .

guest 2014 (not verified) 13 May 2014 - 9:45pm

What percentage do you think is a grade V? What's the lowest percent a person can get and still pass?

nervous child (not verified) 21 May 2014 - 6:40pm

I think I got at least a 76% how much is that in terms of what grade did I get. Mathematics csec

guest (not verified) 21 May 2014 - 9:20pm

hey I'm here crying now because I think I got less than a 1 , I completed all compulsory questions (not sure if some are right ) but only did 1 optional question ,I feel as if Igot a 100 or high 90 in paper too , do you think I got a one? and what is the percentage needed for a 1?

CAPE STUDENT (not verified) 29 May 2014 - 2:48pm

In reply to by guest (not verified)

Well i don't know if they grade all subjects the same. But last year when i did my CXC i got 73% in Mechanical Engineering and i got a 1 in it......

guest (not verified) 17 July 2014 - 4:54pm

I sat the 2014 cxc exam but guess what..I failed most chem labs, and I also failed paper 1 and 2...and I mistakenly left out a section on my enlish A paper what grades do I expect? Ungraded and range 3? Am soo concerned about my results .sigh!.

guest (not verified) 25 July 2014 - 11:27am

What are the ranges in getting a grades 1 ,2 and 3 for cape . preferably in chemistry biology and physics?
Thanks in advance

College Student (not verified) 12 August 2014 - 7:12pm

So I recently heard from a teacher that a grade 5 is actually a pass and that failing grades start from grade 6 and below.
Is this true?

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