The disappearing 2.1

Some time ago I began to see a strange shift in the distribution of exam marks. So, one recent year, I examined the exam marks for a total of seven modules in related subjects. All the modules were quantitative and there were six separate lecturers involved. The modules covered second, third and fourth years of a degree programme. Now that enough time has passed, I think it is safe enough to show some of the data.

exam stats

The high percentage of failed marks is, of course, pretty depressing but I find a couple of other aspects of the data fascinating.

First is the large number of marks under 30%. About one-third of scripts earned marks below this value, suggesting in my mind that many students simply hadn’t prepared sufficiently well. The fact that just over 13% of students got under 20% is just as shocking. How can you get less than 20% if you make any sort of genuine effort?

Second is the disappearance of the 2.1 grade. Less than 5% of scripts scored in this range. On the other hand, about 14% of scripts reached the first class honours level.

I have found that this type of distribution has persisted over the intervening years. Very large numbers of students are failing with very low marks, a substantial number are scoring exceptionally highly (marks in the 80s and even 90s are no longer very remarkable) and there seems to be a disappearing centre.

I wonder if anyone else has seen this kind of effect?


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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2 Responses to The disappearing 2.1

  1. Editor says:

    For a longer-term national view on grade changes at IoT, University and Leaving Cert level see:
    The full database is available there and you can check your trends across disciplines and Institutions.

  2. infohubzone says:

    Scoring well in leaving cert exam is very important and every student works hard for it. If you are facing any problem you can choose a good and reputed school which will help you in your preparation for leaving cert exams. The above distribution of exam marks is showing this clearly that there is a need of improvement in the quality of education system. Here I am sharing a link for fifth year leaving certification course as I hope it will be beneficial for some students who want better grades in their leaving cert exams.

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