Examinations in Summer 2021

On 6 January 2021, the government confirmed that in summer 2021, students taking GCSE, AS and A levels regulated by Ofqual, should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers.

How will grades be calculated?

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced on the 25th February that students will receive grades awarded and determined by teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught. Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including:

  • student work produced in response to assessment materials provided by the exam board, including groups of questions, past papers or similar materials such as practice or sample papers;
  • non-exam assessment (NEA) work (often referred to as coursework), even if this has not been fully completed;
  • student work produced in centre-devised tasks that reflect the specification, that follow the same format as exam board materials and have been marked in a way that reflects exam board mark schemes – this can include:
    • substantial class or homework (including those that took place during remote learning)
    • internal tests taken by pupils
    • mock exams taken over the course of study
  • records of a student’s capability and performance over the course of study in performance-based subjects such as music, drama and PE;
  • records of each student’s progress and performance over the course of study.

Students studying vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) that are often taught alongside GCSEs and A levels on one or two year courses, and used for university or college places, will also receive grades assessed by teachers rather than sitting exams.

Exams and assessments will continue in VTQs where they are needed for students to demonstrate the necessary professional standard in an occupation.

See guidance here on the submission of teacher assessed grades.

What is the role of examination boards?

Schools, colleges and other educational settings will conduct multiple checks – such as checking consistency of judgements across teachers and that the correct processes were followed – to ensure as much fairness as possible.

At the same time, exam boards will conduct their own checks, through a combination of random sampling and more targeted scrutiny where they identify cause for concern.

Exam boards will publish requirements for schools’ and colleges’ quality assurance processes. Exam boards will review all schools’ and colleges’ quality assurance processes before they submit grades.

The head teacher or principal will submit a declaration to the exam board confirming they have met the requirements for quality assurance.

Schools and colleges can decide the exact timing for when they undertake internal quality assurance, provided they complete the necessary checks before the deadline to submit grades to the exam boards on 18 June.

As well as the checks of schools’ and colleges’ quality assurance processes, exam boards will complete checks of the evidence for a sample of student grades in a sample of subjects, in a sample of schools and colleges over June and July.

The exam boards will determine which schools and colleges they visit, and which students’ evidence they review. The exam boards will decide whether the grades determined by the centre following quality assurance are a reasonable exercise of academic judgement of the students’ demonstrated performance. If they don’t find this to be the case the exam boards will ask the school or college to investigate.

Exam boards will not re-mark the student’s evidence or give an alternative grade. Grades would only be changed by the board if they are not satisfied with the outcome of an investigation or malpractice is found.

When is results day?

Students will receive their results for A/AS levels on the 10 August and GCSEs on the 12 August.

Results for relevant VTQs that are linked to progression to further or higher education, including some BTECs, will also be issued to students on or before these dates. Awarding organisations have been confirming their approach to VTQ results since 25 February.

Following the release of results, there will be a window for students who believe their grade is wrong to raise an appeal.

Exam boards will support schools and colleges in prioritising appeals where their outcome will determine a student’s ability to progress to their next stage of education or training.

Will I have a right of appeal? 

Every student will have the right to appeal their grade if they so wish. Before a grade is submitted, teachers should make students aware of the evidence they are using to assess them. Students will then have the opportunity to confirm the evidence is their own work and make their teachers aware of any mitigating circumstances they believe should be taken into account.

If a student wishes to appeal, centres should undertake an initial process review to check all processes were followed correctly and no errors were made. If the school or college finds an error, they can submit a revised grade to the exam board.

If the student still wants to appeal, they will ask their school or college to submit a formal appeal to the exam board for them. The exam board will check the centre followed its own processes and exam board requirements as well as reviewing the evidence used to form their judgement and providing a view as to whether the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement.

If the exam board finds the grade is not reasonable, they will determine the alternative grade and inform the centre.

In cases of disagreement between the centre and the exam board, or if the student disagrees with the centre or the exam board, the case can be referred to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS). The exam board’s decision on the grade following appeal will stand unless the EPRS finds that the exam board has made a procedural error.

Appeals are not likely to lead to adjustments in grades where the original grade is a reasonable exercise of academic judgement supported by the evidence. Grades can go up or down as the result of an appeal.

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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.