The Mathematical Association’s comment on A-level Mathematics low grade boundaries
We certainly regret there being such low grade boundaries, as this is unlikely to engage future students in taking A-level Mathematics, contrary to the push to engage more students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. We understand that when changes to a syllabus occur there are sometimes unfortunate consequences until things settle down. Unfortunately these changes and low grade boundaries are most likely to cause a further decrease in the number of students taking A-level mathematics, at least in the near future. We saw a similar decrease when Curriculum 2000 was introduced, until that was radically changed for the better. After many years of seeing a growth in the number of students taking Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A-level, together with the introduction of Core Maths, we hope future students will not be discouraged by this year's results.
As to why it has happened, the new exam is certainly harder than the old one, and that is to some extent deliberate. There is more emphasis on problem-solving, and that is what a mathematics qualification helps achieve: future employers do not ask you to do a routine exercise, they ask you to solve a problem that nobody has solved before. However, it is now too hard, or perhaps there is not sufficient range of difficulty within the questions, which would allow the weaker candidates the opportunity to demonstrate what they could do, whilst still stretching the more able. They did not need to go so far in making the exam so difficult as other papers exist for testing the highest achievers such as AEA and STEP.