2021 exam changes

Your go-to place for exam changes and teacher support this summer

Non-exam assessments (NEA) and endorsements

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

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 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.

For most of our qualifications and subjects, we won’t need to do any sampling, moderation or collect marks this summer. 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

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

For all other qualifications and subjects, there’s no 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.

Evidence for Quality Assurance

We’re working with the other exam boards to make sure that requirements for internal quality assurance and arrangements for external quality assurance are consistent. We’ll share updates with you about this when we know more.

Although we won’t be doing any sampling, moderation or collecting marks this summer, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has said that, where possible, all evidence on which a student’s grade is based, (including copies of their work and any mark records) is kept safely by the school or college.

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

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 for the 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.

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.

We’re working with Ofqual to confirm our plans for these qualifications and we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.

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. While we don’t know the Quality Assurance requirements yet, 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. We’ll let you know when we have more information about this.

Further support

We know you’d value further support with marking incomplete work, as well as guidance about assessing students who don’t have any evidence for certain activities. We’ll be providing this guidance to you as soon as we can.

We hope this update helps for now and we’ll be back in touch with more information and support in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find the most recent guidance for teachers and senior leaders on completing NEA this summer on The JCQ website.

Get NEA assessment and support materials

Log in to get assessment and support materials for summer 2021

Teachers can get assessment and support materials, and example answers and commentaries for the summer 2021 series in Centre Services (and Secure Key Materials in e-AQA).


  • Assessment materials for summer 2021 available in Centre Services and Secure Key Materials
  • Get ready for grading – our comprehensive support programme for teachers – has started
  • JCQ has published guidance on how to determine students’ grades this summer
  • Ofqual guidance now available to help teachers make objective judgements
  • Schools should keep students' work to support quality assurance processes and appeals
  • Students should continue with their NEA where it’s safe to do so

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