The difficulty of unitised qualification exam papers may vary from year to year. In order to ensure fairness and consistency across years and within subjects, the raw examination marks are converted into a common scale.
This scale is known as the uniform mark scale/score (UMS). It gives a fixed scale with common boundaries that are unchanged year on year and is used to make the marks compatible and comparable. The UMS grade boundaries are available on our grade boundaries page.
Sally and Peter both sat an A Level Humanities unit, but in different years.
There are four, equally weighted units needed to achieve the qualification. Both papers are marked out of 80 and both students score 61. But, as Sally's exam included more complex questions than Peter's, the grade boundary for achieving an A grade is set at 61. Peter's exam was relatively straightforward and the A boundary is set at 64.
Therefore, for this unit, Sally achieves an A and Peter achieves a B. Their marks are converted to UMS (out of a maximum of 80) as shown below.
Peter therefore has 61 raw marks with the A boundary for his unit set at 64. When this is converted into UMS, he has 60 uniform marks.
Sally also has 61 raw marks with the A boundary for her unit set at 61. When this is converted into UMS, she has 64 uniform marks.
If the candidate is absent for one of the units needed to satisfy the qualification rules, the unit will be treated as achieving zero uniform marks when calculating the certification grade. This will be shown as ‘#’ against the certification grade on results documentation.
Candidates cannot specify which units they would like to use towards an award, and ‘re-aggregating’ an award is not permitted after results have been issued.
For more information about how we calculate the A Level A*, you can read the guide on the following page: