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!


nick (not verified) 25 October 2014 - 4:22pm

I got a grad 4 in English understanding b expression e I would really want to know which one of the paper I fail and how to improve

guest (not verified) 26 January 2015 - 9:05am

the cxc marking system needs to be revised, how some one can get an A for understanding and E for expression, that doesn't make any sense.

guest (not verified) 27 March 2015 - 5:03am

In reply to by guest (not verified)

I got a B for understanding and C for expression and got a 3 -__-

lily (not verified) 14 August 2015 - 1:29am

In reply to by guest (not verified)

I also, really doesn't make any sense what so ever they really need to check on that!

christan (not verified) 7 February 2015 - 7:27pm

I attempted the january 2015 physics exam and messed up the graph in question one and left out part in no.6 can i still attain a grade ii

kevon (not verified) 1 March 2015 - 10:19am

For mathematics the multiple choice paper is 33% of your cxc mark and in the structure paper is 67% of your final exam mark

R.R.J.Mason (not verified) 12 June 2015 - 6:03pm

Everyone in my class kept talking about the curve so I had thought that CXC always uses it. Now I'm a bit nervous for chemistry and more nervous about add. maths.

guest (not verified) 25 August 2015 - 5:24pm

Can someone get two C and one D in Biology and fail?

guest (not verified) 7 August 2016 - 6:23pm

Good Day whats 50% in cape a range 4 or 5 ? What's the average of a 3,4 and 5?

Latifa (not verified) 17 August 2016 - 3:52am

I got an A for understanding and e expression does that make any sense

jordan (not verified) 17 August 2016 - 4:15am

I got a grade 3 in for subjects(maths,office administration, principle of account and history) and a grade one in English can I apply for form 6.

Lorraine (not verified) 18 August 2016 - 3:31am

I got a grade 3 in maths after just Started the class January 2016 of the , I'm going to resit in January of 2017.

guest (not verified) 22 August 2016 - 7:17pm

Is a grade 4 a pass?

guest (not verified) 28 August 2016 - 3:23pm

My son got an A for understanding and E for expression and got a 4. Why. Can you please explain.

christine (not verified) 5 January 2018 - 7:19am

hi..can someone please tell me how long does it take for January 2018 exam results yo b out?? just the average time it takes?

What happens depends on the subject and the amount the SBA contributes to your final exam mark. If the SBA contributes a significant amount to your final exam score and you fail the SBA, very likely you will fail the exam. It is not certain mind you, just more likely.

rolando (not verified) 10 May 2018 - 8:21pm

i got a perfect score in my maths sba and i think i do well in the paper 1 but the paper 2 was very hard

Dabreau (not verified) 11 May 2018 - 10:36am

Of i got 18/20 in my sba an 57/60 in p1 an 57/100 in p2 what grade am i looking at can i still get a one?

Jaylan (not verified) 1 June 2018 - 12:24am

Hi :
I sat my CSEC exam a couple weeks ago and i had very high hopes, so do all of my teachers. High hopes that i can get a grade one without breaking a sweat. While in the exam, i spent too much time on the summary. Consequently, I wrote a little more than one page for the short story (one very good page ...) the others were adequate. Furthermore, i'm quite sure i did well on the paper 1 and i averaged in the 80's for my SBA. Long story short, can i still get a grade I for English A ?

Jaylan (not verified) 1 June 2018 - 12:33am

Hi :
I sat my CSEC exam a few weeks ago, I had high hopes. So do all of my teachers. I spent too much time on the summary on top of that, i was somewhat nervous. Consequently, i wrote a little over one page for the short story. However, my other questions were of adequate length. The paper 1 was fair, and my SBA averaged in the 80's. Long story short, can i still get a grade I for English A ?

Shontaé (not verified) 2 June 2018 - 8:54am

Hi, I am really desperate for an answer about marks for the alternative SBA. I did the May/June 2018 physics examination this year as a private candidate and the paper 3 did not look very hard but I was so flustered about the fact that we did not receive much laboratory practice as an outside candidate that when I got into the exam I had an anxiety attack and messed up on the paper big time. The paper 2 was okay as I was able to answer every question comfortably, however I’m worried that I may receive a grade 4 or below if I fail the paper 3. I am wondering If you do very badly for paper 3 alone does that at least get you a grade 3??. I really want to get this subject to get into a course I applied for in uwi this year. I am so worried I have never failed any CXC subject ever and even received all grade ones in all of my CAPE science subjects. Any response will be helpful, thank you in advance.

Cape (not verified) 22 June 2018 - 11:23pm

I’m just here to get some answers about Cape grades. So since a 5 is a pass, does this make it harder to obtain grades 1-3?
And what grade can you possibly obtain from 65%-75%?

Triss (not verified) 21 May 2019 - 11:48am

the SBA grade is 20% What is paper 2 grade

Celine Walters (not verified) 23 May 2019 - 12:21am

Does CXC award half marks?...for were asked to name the compound and you wrote homologous series eg.alcohol

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