2021 exam changes

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How private candidates will be assessed in summer 2021

Published:Friday 19 Mar 2021

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released interim guidance for schools and colleges accepting private candidates in summer 2021. It explains how private candidates will be assessed this year on a range of evidence, in a similar way to other students.

The interim guidance gives an overview of the elements of the assessment process for private candidates taking GCSEs, AS or A-levels in summer 2021. Separate information for private candidates taking vocational, technical and other qualifications will be published soon.

Who the interim guidance applies to

The interim guidance has been written with private candidates in mind, but may also apply to some other students, particularly those who have changed school or college recently. More detailed guidance on the assessment process for all summer 2021 candidates, including advice on grading decisions, will be published at the end of March.

Where private candidates can receive grades this summer

JCQ will publish a full list of all schools, colleges and other exam centres who private candidates can work with to receive a grade this summer, by 29 March 2021.

How private candidates will be assessed

Private candidates will be assessed in a similar way to other students this year. Schools and colleges will have considerable flexibility to determine the appropriate range of evidence for their students. Any schools or colleges that assess private candidates will need to use this flexibility to select evidence which reflects the student’s particular circumstances, including the content they’ve covered in their studies.

Schools and colleges who agree to accept private candidates will need to work with them (eg a short interview or a questionnaire) to understand how they’ve been studying, what evidence they may have already generated, and how much of the specification content they’ve covered in their studies. This will help to find out what types of assessment might be most appropriate for the student, whether pre-existing evidence is available and whether any reasonable adjustments or access arrangements are required. Schools and colleges should consider their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 when providing reasonable adjustments for private candidates.

The interim guidance gives more information on supervising assessments, quality assurance and appeals, types of evidence, and sources of pre-existing evidence, as well as examples to show how the different sources of evidence might be combined.

We’ll publish further information as we know more.

Late fee refunds and financial support for schools

Any entries made for private candidates before or on 26 April will have the late entry fee refunded in the form of a credit. Usual late entry fees and dates apply for all other students.

The Department for Education has also confirmed that schools will get financial support to support A-level and GCSE entries from private candidates this summer. The support grant is available for schools, colleges (and other exam centres) to cover the additional costs associated with assessing private candidates in summer 2021.

See all 2021 exam changes

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