A Guide To Understanding How Your AQA A Level Grade Results Are Calculated
This guide will help you understand how your AQA A Level grade results are calculated. I keep getting questions on whether peoples grades are right or wrong or how close they are to the next grade, even whether they should have it remarked.
I thought this would help people understand in simple terms exactly how their scores are worked out. This pretty much applies to other subjects too for AQA but I will focus on Psychology AS/A2 – The concept is the same for other subjects too however.
Raw Marks And UMS Marks – Know The Difference
In your exam you sat a paper. That paper is out of a certain amount of raw marks. For Psychology Psya1 the maximum marks available is 72 marks. The grade boundaries are set by a committee at AQA who decide where the cut-off for each grade will be. So for example they may decide the following grades mark values:
(and this is just an example and not real mark allocation):
- A Grade = 65 marks out of 72
- B Grade = 59 marks out of 72
- C Grade = 45 marks out of 72
- D Grade = 35 marks out of 72
- E Grade = 30 marks out of 72
Your raw marks are then converted into something called UMS or uniform mark scale. You can find more information on this here:
This basically means your raw marks are given a scaled score out of 100. You can think about it as a percentage in some way if it makes it easier to understand although this wont be a true representation of your actual raw mark. 1 raw mark may actually be worth 2 or 3 UMS – it just depends on what the AQA committee decides as one paper can be more difficult than another (even if its the same unit itself taken at different exam windows).
So two students can sit the same unit but different papers (one year after the other) and if they scored the exact same raw marks (for example both score 65 marks) – one paper is likely to be more difficult than the other in some way and its possible the student with the harder paper may reach the A grade threshold while the other student sitting the easier paper may just miss it scoring a B grade and just under (based on our hypothetical example above). This is because the UMS for that paper is given a weaker value than the harder value.
Raw Marks Differ In Value Between Different Exam Windows – It’s Scaled Differently Each Time (usually not by much)
It’s possible to get 100 ums in your exam (the highest you can get) but actually have dropped some marks in the exam too. As the marking is scaled there tends to be some leeway at the top end of marks as 1 mark is usually worth between 1-3 UMS depending on the paper difficulty. Therefore scoring 72 out of 72 in the exam would actually give you 144 UMS (if a single raw mark was worth 2 UMS for example). But the result can’t be more than 100 UMS as its capped at that level.
So you can actually get perhaps 68/72 but still come out with 100 ums points in the exam which is the maximum UMS to achieve in Psya1 Psychology for example. Your results slip will not tell you your raw marks usually but simply the UMS itself so you wont know what your raw marks are without getting your paper back and checking the mark allocation.
You can however usually “reverse engineer” your UMS into raw marks using this tool here to give you a better idea on your A Level raw mark before its turned into UMS:
You put your exam unit in there (any subject), choose the level (A Level) and then input your raw mark. This is then given a UMS. If you tinker with it you can get an idea of what your raw mark might be once you put the correct amount of raw marks to match your UMS score- this will tell you your actual grading within the exam itself.
Heres a couple of tables from the AQA website too for AS and A2. It’s just a general table to help you grasp the concept better:
This is ultimately the best way to understand how your A level grade results are calculated before they are given to you. You can then understand better how close you may have been to the next grade above. If you only just miss the cut-off then yes a remark may be in your interest. If however its a big difference it may not be worthwhile but ultimately its your choice.
How To Get An A* Grade For A Level Psychology AQA A
To score an A* grade for A level Psychology (AQA A) you must score at least 320 UMS out of 400 with an average of 90% at A2. So in basic terms you need to score 90% over Psya3 and Psya4.
You can score 85 UMS for Psya3 but then score 95 UMS in Psya4 as that would average out at 90% over the A2 units. Thats provided you scored enough at AS level Psychology to contribute to you reaching the 320 UMS mark.
I hope this helps,