IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New book explores standards across the world’s different examination systems

11 September 2018

UCL IOE Press has published a new book exploring what the world’s different examination systems understand by ‘standards’.

Empty exam hall

The book ‘Exam standards: how measures and meanings differ around the world’, is the outcome of a project that seeks to open conversation between international experts on this topic.

The team which included UCL Institute of Education’s (IOE) Dr Tina Isaacs, along with Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Dennis Opposs and Dr Lena Gray, focuses on how standards in national, school-leaving or university entrance examinations are set and maintained in a wide range of jurisdictions around the world.

Within ‘Exam standards: how measures and meanings differ around the world’, the editors challenge the notion that there is a single superior way of thinking about national examinations, and instead encourage educators and policymakers to engage with the multiple global perspectives and consider carefully the complex issues of examination standards.

The researchers found that England’s GCSE and A Level system is distinctive, and works particularly well. Each system has its own issues, and the experts capture the variety of challenges they face and responses to these within each country’s own political and economic systems. The countries involved are: Australia (Queensland and Victoria), Chile, England, France, Georgia, Hong Kong, Ireland, South Korea, Sweden, the US (Advanced Placement Examinations™), and South Africa.

Writing in the IOE Blog, Dr Isaacs and Dr Gray said: 

“In an age of globalisation, policy borrowing and benchmarking, where governments and assessment bodies around the world look to each other to question or validate their own practice, it’s helpful to gain a deeper understanding of what examination standards mean in different political, social and economic contexts. 

"For example, countries such as Chile, Georgia and South Africa have had to grapple with the legacies of less than equal educational opportunities for their children. Other jurisdictions, such as Sweden and Queensland, Australia, are trying to get the balance right between teacher-led assessment and external testing.

"This development of a knowledge community has been a critical outcome of the project, one that we have found to be enormously rewarding and are eager to share with others. We’ve begun to open the black box of international standard setting and would very much like to see the box opened wider, working with our global colleagues.”

‘Exam standards: how measures and meanings differ around the world’ was published on 10 September 2018.

Media contact

Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations
Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 8515 
Email: rowan.walker@ucl.ac.uk