Our research focuses on driving continual improvement and the maintenance of high standards. We believe this is important as examination standards – and the perception of them – are of principal concern to society and dominate many educational and media debates. We also research other aspects of standards including curriculum content, attainment and performance.

Clarity in what we mean by 'standards' is critical and we have done much work to help clarify public understanding of the different examination standards issues. For example, in 2010, Cambridge Assessment held a public debate on examination standards which was attended by over 100 people, including teachers, assessment experts, employers and journalists. Our report 'Exam standards: the big debate' identified different challenges associated with different types of examination and highlighted that these challenges can be related to the changing purposes of examinations, and are not simply a matter of being 'too easy' or 'too hard’.

Published materials

Related materials

Examiner judgement in higher education assessment

Insight, 06 November 2013

Speaking at a recent seminar hosted by the Cambridge Assessment Network, Sue Bloxham, Professor of Academic Practice at the University of Cumbria, explored a mismatch between the policy and practice of assessment judgement in higher education.

It doesn’t add up: what’s wrong with maths?

Insight, 20 October 2013

Maths skills are core to our understanding of other subjects and integral to the vitality of a modern economy. But is the right maths being taught in schools today?

The Cambridge View on structural and technical issues

Insight, 30 May 2013

The DfE has identified a number of areas where it wishes to make changes to the current GCSEs. Tiering and Grading are amongst the most challenging. Read our views on structural and technical issues.

Marking and grading: a simple guide

Insight, 20 May 2013

Assigning grades to students’ work in the UK is a complicated and large scale process. Our simple guide to the process is aimed at teachers, parents and students.


Sharing best practice (2:10)

A powerful lesson on how sharing expertise with others can enhance learning – delegate insights from Cambridge International Study Programme.

Tim Oates speaking on exam standards (32:42)

Tim Oates speaks at an Ofqual event on exam standards.

Teresa's story (3:06)

A previous Cambridge International Study Programme participant, Teresa Castanheira, shares her experiences from the course and the impact it has had on her personal and professional life.

Comparability of examination standards: understanding of the issues and directions for the future (04:09)

Cambridge Assessment has been involved in research into the comparability of examination standards for many years. In 2009, we developed a dedicated programme of research in this important field. Our researchers discuss the issues surrounding comparability and debate suitable methods for establishing it.

International education: a view from South Korea (5:32)

Paul Friend, Principal at the North London Collegiate School on Jeju Island, South Korea, and some of his students explain what international education means to them.

The use of rank ordering (04:50)

Tom Bramley of Cambridge Assessment's Research Division talks about understanding and establishing standards in qualifications - the use of rank ordering.

International education: views from around the globe (2:16)

We take a brief journey around the globe to find out what International Education – the theme of the seventh Cambridge Assessment Conference - means to assessment professionals, educationalists, teachers and students around the world.

How effective are assessments of Citizenship in England? (2:58)

Guest speaker Dr Mary Richardson, Centre for Beliefs, Rights and Values in Education, Roehampton University, discusses the problems of assessing Citizenship, a subject which is perceived by many teachers as unconventional, and by some, as unassessable.

Tim Oates' views on international surveys (2:53)

Tim Oates calls for contextualised interpretation of the complex data that transnational surveys provide. 

Competitive admissions to Higher Education (05:49)

Guest speakers Janet Graham (Director, Supporting Professionalism in Admissions Programme) and Dr Robert Wilkins, (Dept. of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Oxford University) join Cambridge Assessment's Tim Oates to consider the wider context of admissions to competitive Higher Education entry, including the impact of the Schwartz Report’s recommendations on admissions processes.


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Interview with presenters (19.2MB)

Professor Jeremy Hodgen of King’s College London joins Cambridge Assessment's Tim Oates to debate whether maths education in England has improved over recent years.

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Viewpoint from John Bangs (4MB)

Viewpoint from John Bangs (National Union of Teachers) at our exam standards debate.

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Seminar: Comparability of examination standards (31.4MB)

Comparability of examination standards: understanding of the issues and directions for the future - featuring Tom Bramley, Gill Elliott, Dr Paul Newton, Sylvia Green and Dr Jackie Greatorex (Cambridge Assessment).

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Viewpoint from Anastasia de Waal (5.5MB)

Viewpoint from Anastasia de Waal (Civitas) at our exam standards debate.

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Viewpoint from Professor Gordon Stobart (4.3MB)

Viewpoint from Professor Gordon Stobart (Institute of Education, University of London) at our exam standards debate.

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Viewpoint from Professor Roger Murphy (4.2MB)

Viewpoint from Professor Roger Murphy (University of Nottingham) at our exam standards debate.

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Viewpoint from Tim Oates (5MB)

Viewpoint from Tim Oates (Cambridge Assessment) at our exam standards debate.

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Standards event: Audience debate (35.5MB)

The audience debates 'exam standards' with the panellists at our event on 29 April 2010.

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Questions and clarification session (2MB)

Questions and clarification

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Introduction from Bene't Steinberg (651kb)

In order to clarify public understanding of the different examination standard issues, we hosted an open and frank debate in April 2010.

Research Matters

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.

Research Matters 28: Autumn 2019