2021 and 2022 exam changes

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Contingency arrangements: GCSE, AS and A-level exams summer 2022

Published:Friday 12 Nov 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have confirmed the contingency arrangements for summer 2022 GCSE, AS and A-level exams.

Ofqual has published detailed guidance on the contingency arrangements. They’ve also published open letters to schools, students and private candidates. And The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published some frequently asked questions.

These changes are for 2022 only.

Exams in 2022

The DfE and Ofqual have made changes to account for the impact of the pandemic, and will closely monitor the situation in schools and colleges. If there’s a significant increase in disruption and/or public health restrictions, they’ll introduce extra measures as a last resort. In particular if there’s:

  • widespread and significant disruption to teaching and learning, advance information will be published sooner to help schools and colleges to focus their remaining teaching time.
  • new public health restrictions which may affect exams, the DfE will consider putting an Exams Support Service in place. This will support schools and colleges with access to venues and invigilators.

If exams can’t go ahead

If exams are not able to go ahead as planned, grades provided by schools and colleges will be used. If exams are cancelled, Ofqual will publish information on how grades would be determined.

Summary of key steps

Here’s a summary of the key steps that schools and colleges should take throughout the rest of the school year to make sure students have evidence in place that their grades could be based on if needed:

Non-exam assessment (NEA)

Collating evidence

  • Teachers should keep the original student work – students could be given copies if this would help support their learning.

Assessing students

  • Schools and colleges should plan assessment opportunities for grades in advance, gathering some evidence early in the academic year. A recommended pattern could be to assess students once in the second half of the autumn term and the spring term, and the first half of the summer term.
  • Teachers should plan so that, across the assessments, students are assessed on a wide range of content, similar to what they’ll expect in their summer exams, and across the assessment objectives for the qualification.
  • The assessments should be sat under exam-like conditions wherever possible. This will help make sure that the work is authentic, and prepare students for exams in the summer.
  • Wherever possible, schools and colleges need to either assess all of their students who are taking a particular qualification using the same material at the same time - or using different materials later, to make sure it’s fair.
  • Teachers should mark the assessments in line with published mark schemes and guidance where appropriate. Schools and colleges should support teachers to mark work for the same qualification to the same standard.
  • You should tell students before they take each assessment that their performance in it will be used as part of the evidence to determine their grade if exams are cancelled. Wherever possible, this information should be given far enough in advance to allow them time to revise and prepare. They should be told the aspects of the content the assessment will cover, but not the specific questions.
  • Students should not be given the opportunity to repeat an assessment – for example to improve their mark in response to feedback.
  • For art and design and project qualifications, which do not have exams, students should complete their non-exam assessments in line with the requirements. No additional assessments are needed.

Private candidates

As exams are expected to take place in 2022, schools and colleges are encouraged to allow private candidates to register with them in the usual way. They could be assessed throughout the year alongside the other students, or in a compressed period if exams are cancelled.

Vocational Technical and other qualifications (VTQs)

The DfE has published separate guidance on the contingency plans for VTQs which confirm that, if exams are cancelled, grades provided by schools and colleges will be awarded.

We're here to support you

We’re here to support you and guide you through the arrangements for summer 2022. So please get in touch if you have any questions.

See our subject-specific changes pages for more information.

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