Explaining the mystery of AQE scores

How are the scores worked out?
How are the final scores worked out?

When that envelope containing your child’s AQE score comes in the new year, will you know what those little numbers mean?

No-one “passes” or “fails” at AQE. No-one gets a grade either, just a number which is your child’s “age-adjusted AQE score”. Theoretically, this standardised AQE score can lie anywhere between the 50s and the 140s (although the highest scores have always previously been in the high 120s).

So how is their final score worked out?

Markers record your child’s score on each paper. There are 64 points available for each test – 32 each for Maths and English. The number of marks your child gets out of 64 on each test is their “raw AQE score”.

Raw scores are age-adjusted

In each test, your child’s score is averaged alongside other children of exactly the same age, to the nearest month. That means if your child sits all three tests, they end up with three age-adjusted scores. Marks are not simply awarded or taken away according to the date of your child’s birthday. Essentially their final score tells you how well your child performed compared to other children who are exactly the same age, to the nearest month.

Best (two!) of three

Only your child’s best two scores count towards their final mark. If they sit all three papers, their lowest score doesn’t count at all. Their final score is the average of their best two papers.

What is the average standardised AQE score?

Of all the children who take the tests, the average score is always 100. This is not a pass/fail mark, as every grammar school fills their places by considering applicants’ scores alongside their own criteria. Northern Ireland’s grammar schools accept a huge range of scores, so it is NOT the case that only children with scores above 100 will get a grammar school place.

Before you get too hung up on the actual score – here’s a thought. The score itself is a means to an end, it’s not a goal in itself. If the score your child receives gets them a place in a school of their choice, then it’s a great result, regardless of the number.

How are the tests marked?

The marking system is really robust – you can find more details about it on the official AQE website. In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know –

  •  Every test paper your child does is marked and totalled by THREE people.
  • After that, 20% of all papers are marked again in a quality control process.
  • A further 20% are added up again. After the marking process has ended, all the papers are totalled again for a final time.

The whole process is well thought-out and very carefully marked, so you should feel reassured.

Most important of all, remind yourself, and your child, that their score is a means to an end, rather than a goal in itself. Once they are settled on their new schools, any interest in scores goes out the window, rarely (if ever) to be mentioned again!


Our site is full of information about helping your child achieve their potential in the AQE Transfer Test. Lots of our tips are free. We also offer Premium membership, which gives you access to all our revision tips on maths and english topics, quizzes and checklists.

By the way, did you know we offer an AQE English Basic Skills Bootcamp 5-day online course? All Premium members have unlimited access to the Bootcamp, where you’ll learn everything you need to get 5 points every time in the proofreading passage. You can also sign up for the course on its own for £15.












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