2021 exam changes

Your go-to place for exam changes and teacher support in 2021 and beyond

Non-exam assessments (NEA) and endorsements

Get assessment and support materials for non-exam assessments (NEA). Find what you need to know about NEA and endorsements for summer 2021, including some subject-specific information.

You can also find NEA guidance for teachers and senior leaders from Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Get NEA assessment and support materials

Students should continue with their NEA

Schools and colleges should carry on with all NEA where it’s safe and possible to do so. This includes all our general, vocational, technical and other qualifications.

NEA will contribute to a student’s overall grade

NEA will still need to be marked by teachers and will contribute to the overall grade – even incomplete work will provide good evidence to help support teachers’ decisions.

Example materials can be found on our teacher online standardisation (TOLS) system.

Occasions where teachers can share NEA marks

Teachers can share NEA marks with their students, or marks for any other individual pieces of evidence, including the endorsement grade/level where that piece of evidence isn't the sole evidence for their overall grade.

The overall subject grade submitted to us must remain confidential, these must not be shared with students before results day.

Sampling, moderation and collating marks and paperwork

For most of our qualifications and subjects, we won’t be collecting marks or moderating in the usual way this summer. However, we'll be sampling portfolios of evidence for students’ assessed grades as part of stage 3 of the quality assurance process.

This includes our vocational, technical and other qualifications. For tech-level units, this means we won’t need to complete external quality assurance (EQA) verification before teachers submit the grades.

The only exceptions to this are:

  • Functional Skills English NEA, which will be assessed and verified as normal
  • A-level Science practical endorsement, we’ll continue to sample students’ lab work as part of the monitoring process.

Submission deadline

For all qualifications and subjects (except for Functional Skills English), there’s no NEA submission deadline. Schools should set internal deadlines for NEA completion, so there’s time to consider it as evidence for grading.

Student grades and endorsements need to be submitted to us by 18 June.

The submission deadline for Functional Skills English NEA is 15 May (as these assessments will go ahead this summer).

Evidence for quality assurance

We’ve worked with the other exam boards to make sure that requirements for internal quality assurance and arrangements for external quality assurance are consistent.

Find out more about quality assurance

Retaining evidence to support quality assurance

Where possible, all evidence on which a student’s grade is based (including copies of their work and any mark records) must be kept safely by the school or college. JCQ has provided guidance on retaining students’ work.

This work will form part of the internal and external quality assurance processes and appeals, so if a student appeals their grade, this work will be evidence to support how that grade was determined.

From 21 June we’ll be sampling portfolios of evidence for students’ assessed grades as part of stage 3 of the quality assurance process.

Submitting endorsement levels

For GCSE Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), GCSE English Language, and A-level Practical Science, the deadline for submitting a grade/level for the endorsements will now be 18 June 2021.

The deadline to submit the NEA centre declaration forms is also 18 June.

Subject-specific NEA

GCSE, AS and A-level Art and Design

For GCSE, AS and A-level Art and Design, students’ grades will be based on their portfolio only.

However, students shouldn’t be penalised if, because of circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to complete their portfolio.

A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics Practical Endorsement

Earlier in the academic year, the arrangements for awarding the Practical Endorsement changed.

Students no longer need to meet the minimum requirement of 12 practicals on the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC).

A-level Science monitoring of the practical endorsement will continue, forming part of the external quality assurance process for this academic year.

Schools and colleges that are yet to be monitored during Cycle 3 (2019-21) will be monitored remotely. This work is being coordinated by the exam boards using the latest entry data.

There’s no need to contact us unless you haven’t made your summer 2021 entries yet.

GCSE English Language

For GCSE English Language spoken language endorsement, schools and colleges won’t need to send us an audio-visual sample, but you’ll still need to send us an NEA centre declaration form by the submission deadline 18 June.

Where teachers haven’t had an opportunity to undertake the Spoken Language presentation with their students, they should submit an endorsement grade that fairly reflects the student’s ability against the published criteria.

AS and A-level Modern Foreign Languages

As exams have been cancelled there’s no need to carry out a formal AS or A-level speaking test.

Teachers should consider students’ speaking skills as part of the ‘range of evidence’ they’re using to determine students’ overall subject grades. For A-level, this could include the work students have done on their individual research projects. Ofqual’s advice is that students should continue to work on this.

Functional Skills English

Functional Skills English exams and assessments can continue in line with government guidelines. Alternative arrangements will be available for anyone who can’t access the assessments.

The submission deadline for the speaking, listening and communicating NEA is still 15 May.

GCSE, AS and A-level PE

In PE, NEA will be a useful source of attainment evidence for teachers to use in calculating a grade.

The changes agreed for summer 2021, as set out in our NEA guides, are still valid for this summer. At GCSE, this is the reduction to two activities from three. For GCSE, AS and A-level, the adaptations to competitive context.

We understand that you may not have the usual range of practical evidence you’d need to assess your students. But students should continue with whatever elements are safe and possible to do, so that you can determine a grade that reflects the student’s combined performance in NEA and the exam components.

Our evidence requirements for moderation, as set out in our NEA guides, no longer apply. You won’t need to submit any video evidence. It’s important to remember that NEA (both complete and incomplete) could form part of the evidence needed for the external quality assurance with exam boards.

Get NEA assessment and support materials

Find materials for your subject


  • We've published information about how fees are being used this summer
  • Schools should keep students' work to support quality assurance processes and appeals
  • Autumn exams will take place. Information available for general and non-general qualifications

Connect with us

Contact our team

Exams officers can contact our customer services team by:

Tel: 0800 197 7162

+44 161 696 5995 outside the UK

Our opening hours are:

8am–5pm Monday to Friday

Parents and students should contact their school or college in the first instance.

Sign up for updates

Let us know if you’d like the latest updates about your subject.

Sign up for updates