IGSCE Art students across the globe received shockingly low grades this summer, but the real failure lies with high grade boundaries and harsh examiners. As students settle into Autumn Term, art-K can’t help but worry about all the creatives who may have lost their love for art.

So, why did IGCSE fail Art and Design students?

Click here to see all IGCSE Results Statistics for June 2023

What is IGCSE?
It stands for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a two-year programme leading to externally set, marked and certificated examinations from the University of Cambridge. Any student who takes an IGCSE subject will be gaining a qualification that is recognised globally.

How is IGCSE different from GCSE?
GCSE examinations can only take place in the UK, where they are offered by state, private, and independent schools. By contrast, IGCSE examinations are available in over 150 countries.

Why did this happen?
There are two major factors to consider here; grade boundaries and examiner partiality. Jon Westley explains the first,  

“despite the many challenges the 2023 I/GCSE cohort has faced during the Covid years, (we) will see students treated as if the last two years did not happen – and be graded on that basis. The basic fact is we can expect this year a major drop in Grade 7, 8 and 9 Grades (those broadly relating to A*/A grades in the old grading system). This drop will impact on more than 100,000 students worldwide. In total there will be more than 300,000 lower grades.”
Westley, J. (2023) 2023 Igcse Results And Gcse Results In Uae Schools – What Can We Expect? Available at: schoolscompared.com (Accessed 13 September 2023).

Secondly, grade boundaries for IGCSE art are dictated by quite vague objectives. For example,

Assessment Objective 1: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses:

It is graded based on the following criteria;

21 – 25: Excellent skill in recording observations from a variety of relevant sources, showing intentions effectively
16 – 20: Confident skill in recording observations from a variety of relevant sources, consistently showing intentions.

The problem is… art is subjective! One can pass judgement on shading technique or realism but who’s to say what “excellent” or “confident” means? It’s different for everyone. As such, grading is likely based on individual judgement.

Assessment criteria is clearly defined for other subjects; if the student makes the right calculation, remembers the correct date or demonstrates understanding of academic theory, marks are awarded. Examiners can remain objective. The Art and Design mark scheme does not have this, so a student’s grades are usually based on which examiner marked their work and how lenient they were. 

Click here to see a breakdown of all IGCSE Art and Design Assessment Criteria

So how do the IGCSE art stats compare to GCSE?
Arts subjects saw a fall in overall pass rates compared with last year’s results but remained above 2019 levels. In art and design, 23.9% secured a grade 7/A or higher compared with 28.1% in 2022 and 22.7% in 2019.
Schoolsweek has shared some interesting data on the biggest drop in top grades across different subjects – nice to see Art and Design was not one of them!
Some GCSE subjects have fallen below pre-Covid levels, despite an overall near return to 2019 benchmarks. The biggest drops in top grades were found in Business Studies (-32.1%), Computing (-28.6) and English Language (-20%). Smallest grade-falls were found in Religious Studies (-11.8%), Mathematics (-12.1%) and Chemistry (12.2%).
GCSE art actually saw an increase in top grades compared to pre-covid.

Final thoughts?
Why didn’t the IGCSE board of examiners lower the grade boundary when they noticed this appalling drop in grades in comparison to other subjects? Especially when we consider the personal nature of art, how can the bar be set so impossibly high? What will the long term impact be on this 2023 cohort of artists? Creatives are vital to the economy, by letting so many down, who knows what innovations society will miss out on…

Today, the creative economy is estimated to be worth $985 billion with no signs of slowing down. G20 Insights predicts that the creative economy could account for 10% of global GDP by 2030, and Deloitte believes we will see up to 40% growth in creative sectors by 2030
Bogachev, I. (2023) How The Growing Creative Economy Will Soon Devour The Real Economy. Available at: www.forbes.com (Accessed 16 September 2023).

If you’ve been affected by IGCSE Art and Design exam result and live in England, find your nearest art-K studio here and let us help you focus on your creative future.