Examinations in Summer 2020

How have grades been calculated? 

Following the cancellation of examinations in 2020, teachers were told to submit the grades they thought each pupil would have received if they had sat the examination based on their performance in class and the mock exams. But this was deemed insufficient on its own, so teachers were also asked to rank each students from highest to lowest in terms of their expected grade.

Initially, exam boards moderated these school-assessed grades to ensure this year’s results are not significantly higher than previous years. As part of the standardisation process, exam boards took into account historical performance data to determine the proportion of students who achieved each grade in previous years. In practice, this means that exam boards looked at the history of grades at the school or college and at the grades that this year’s students have achieved in previous exams. This was intended to allow boards to measure how far a school or college has most likely overestimated or underestimated their grades compared to other centres.

This approach was heavily criticised by teachers, students and others in the education sector who felt this system was unfair, particularly for students in disadvantaged areas. As a result, Ofqual has now released a statement changing how they will be awarding exams grades for GCSE, AS Level and A Level exams for those who have received their results this year:

We have therefore decided that students be awarded their centre assessment for this summer- that is, the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam- or the moderated grade, whichever is higher.”

The full statement can be found at

Guidance from Ofqual on the changes to how exams have been awarded in Summer 2020 can be found here.

What is the reason for introducing a standardisation process? 

It has been argued that it would have resulted in unfairness to allow the teacher predictions to stand without a standardisation process in place. It would create a perpetual unfairness between this year’s grades compared to past and future generations. There would be young people who would have most likely earned a C in an exam receiving an A-grade. Lastly, it would mean such an increase in the numbers of top grades, that they would no longer be credible, something that has happened in other countries, dealing with the same circumstances.

However, the standardisation process has been heavily criticised for focusing on the performance of schools and colleges rather than individual pupils; there is also reason to believe that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have had final results which were lower than those predicted by their school or college which could lead to further entrenching inequalities and limiting their opportunities for the future.

The algorithm used to calculate the grades led to around 40% of A-Level grades being lower than those predicted by the centre assessment.

Autumn Exams

Students should be given an opportunity to sit GCSE, AS Level and A Level exams in the Autumn if they wish to do so. All students should be able to sit GCSE, AS Level and A Level exams in the Autumn if they had been entered for them in the Summer series or if the exam board feel they have made a compelling case of their intention to have applied for the Summer series. Further information on exam dates and dead-lines for entry can be found on the website for the Joint Council for Qualifications at . 

Generally the school or college who entered the student for the Summer exams will be responsible for entering the student for the Autumn exam if the student has expressed a wish for them to do so and students/students’ families should not have to cover the cost if they wish to be entered for an Autumn exam.

How can I lodge an appeal 

The decision to allow student to receive their centre assessed grade or their moderated grade (whichever is higher) now means that there will not be a route to appeal based on the results of mock exams.

Although there is still considerable uncertainty on how pupils can appeal against downgraded A-level results if they feel that their school or college gave them an unfair centre assessment grade, guidance has been released detailing how to lodge an appeal where there has been suspected malpractice and/or maladministration. This includes:

  • You can ask your school or college to check whether it made a mistake when submitting your centre assessment grade(s) or your position in the rank order(s). If it finds it made a mistake in the data it provided it can ask the exam board to correct it;
  • your school or college can appeal to the exam board on your behalf if it believes the exam board used the wrong data when it calculated your grade(s), or made a mistake when it communicated your grade(s);
  • your school or college can appeal if it believes the historical data used for standardisation was not a reliable basis for predicting its 2020 results.

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Exam Results Helpline

Telephone 0800 100 900

The Exam Results Helpline can provide information on appeals, complaints, or what your next steps may be once you’ve received your results.