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. Guidance on awarding grades for Summer 2021 can be found here. 

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 for GCSE, AS Level and A Level qualifications 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.

Students can appeal for any of the following reasons:

  • There was an error in the way the school or college followed or applied its procedure for determining your teacher assessed grade
  • The school or college did not make a reasonable judgement when deciding which evidence to use to determine your teacher assessed grade
  • The school or college did not make a reasonable judgement about your grade based on the evidence gathered
  • There was an error in the way the school or college conducted the centre review process
  • The exam board made an administrative error

The exam board will investigate based on the grounds on which the appeal is made. If the exam board finds the grade is not a reasonable judgment or an error was made in the procedure which affected the grade they will determine the alternative grade and inform the centre.

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, remain the same or go down as the result of an appeal.

In cases of disagreement between the centre and the exam board, or if the student disagrees with the centre or the exam board, the student can appeal to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS); this must usually be done within three weeks of the exam board decision. 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. The EPRS will not be able to change a grade but if they feel that an error was made then they will contact the exam board and expect the exam board to have due regard to their findings; this may result in the exam board reconsidering their decision. Further information on the EPRS can be found here.

Requests for a centre review should be made by 16th August 2021 for a priority appeal (see below), or by 3rd September 2021 for non-priority appeals. Once a student has received the outcome of their centre review, if they then wish to request an awarding organisation appeal they should do so as soon as possible. The school or college will submit the appeal on the student’s behalf. Requests for a priority appeal should be submitted by 23rd August 2021 and requests for non-priority appeals should be submitted by 17th September 2021. Centres may also have their own individual deadlines for making applications so students should check with their centre as soon as possible if they wish to appeal a grade.

A priority appeal is one where the student is applying to higher education and did not attain the grade needed for their firm choice (i.e. the offer they accepted as their first choice) and wish to appeal an A level or other Level 3 qualification result. The student should inform their intended higher education provider that they have requested a centre review or appeal. If a priority appeal is submitted after the above dates then the student may not receive the result in time to commence their high education course in this academic year.

Exams Autumn 2021

Exam boards will be offering exams in October for AS and A levels, and in November and December for GCSEs. Exams will be available for all GCSE and A level subjects, and for AS in biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths.

The exams will be in a standard format and no adaptations will be made other than reasonable adjustments for eligible students.

Students can take exams in the Autumn 2021 exam session if they have received a teacher assessed grade in the Summer 2021 exam session in the same subject or the exam board believes that the student would have taken an exam in the Summer 2021 session if exams had not been cancelled (for example, as a private candidate).

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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.