Changes to 2021 exams for GCSE Languages

Tuesday 22 Sep 2020

We’ve been working hard to make the relevant changes to our qualifications following Ofqual’s decisions on summer 2021 exams, so here are the changes you need to know about for all GCSE Languages.

These changes only apply to the 2021 exam series.

Speaking

To reduce pressures on teaching time, the Ofqual consultation outcome confirmed that the spoken language assessment in summer 2021 will be an endorsement reported on a 3-point scale (pass, merit and distinction) against common assessment criteria. Students’ speaking skills will be assessed by teachers during the course of study and the endorsement level of pass, merit or distinction will be reported alongside the 9-1 grade.

The common assessment criteria will be published shortly by Ofqual. We’ll also be publishing some further detailed guidance to help teachers in their assessments.

Writing

There will be more optionality in the writing components, so the 2021 Writing papers will include an additional optional question for the overlap question at both tiers (Question 4/Question 1) and for Higher tier Question 2. This is so students can answer on their preferred theme. For each optional question, the theme will be given in the introduction to the question in the question paper.

Foundation tier

There will be an additional option for Question 4 and this will be numbered in the question paper as Question 4.3. Students will need to answer one question from a choice of three.

Higher tier

  • There will be an additional option for Question 1 and this will be numbered in the question paper as Question 1.3. Students will need to answer one question from a choice of three.
  • There will be an additional option for Question 2 and this will be numbered in the question paper as Question 2.3. Students will need to answer one question from a choice of three.

To give students time to read all of the optional questions carefully before making a choice, we’ll be adding an extra five minutes to the scheduled exam time at both tiers for the Writing paper in 2021. This means that:

  • the Foundation tier Writing exam will last for one hour and five minutes
  • the Higher tier Writing exam will last for one hour and 20 minutes.

Vocabulary

Following the removal of the regulatory requirement for assessments to use words outside of vocabulary lists and the regulatory permission to gloss where necessary, we’ve reviewed all of our draft Listening and Reading papers for the 2021 exams. We will be making some changes at both tiers to reflect this.

We may still include, in Listening and Reading papers, a small number of basic vocabulary items (eg primary colours, cognates/near cognates) not listed in the specification which will not be glossed and which students may need to understand in order to answer the questions. This is because excluding such items from the assessments is likely to increase the demand of the tasks.

We know that you’ll want to know more about the changes for next summer. We’ll be publishing further guidance about the summer 2021 exams over the coming months.