2021 GCSE and A-level exams: students will be given topics in advance and there will be “more generous grading than usual”

empty exam hall

In some subjects, students will also be given extra materials to take into their exams

Students taking the summer 2021 GCSE and A-level exams will be told in advance which topics to revise for every subject as part of plans to make sure the exams are “as fair as possible”, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.

These topics have not been decided yet, but students will be given them at the end of January 2021. This is to help students focus their revision, the DfE said.

For some subjects, students will also be given “exam aids – like formula sheets” to boost confidence and cut down on “the amount of information they need to memorise,”the DfE added.

The DfE has not specified which subjects this will apply to yet.

Students sitting the 2021 exams will also be given “more generous grading than usual” so that results stay in line with the calculated grades for the cancelled 2020 exams – which ended up being much higher than previous years – “so students this year are not disadvantaged,” the DfE said.

Speaking about these adjustments to the 2021 exams, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, commented that, “exams are the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do which is why it’s so important they take place next summer.

“But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible,” Williamson finished.

More like this: what’s happening with GCSE and A-level exams in 2021?

What will happen if the 2021 exams are disrupted by Covid-19?

There are a few different measures in place to help students who might be affected by coronavirus during the summer exam season.

As long as a student is able to take at least one of their exams for a subject, they will be given a grade for the entire subject.

But if Covid-19 prevents a student from taking any of their exams in a subject, they will be able to sit a back-up paper in July instead.

In some extreme circumstances, if none of these options work out, students may be given a teacher-assessed grade or allowed to sit the exam at home. 

More like this: how to make sure the 2021 exams are fair?

What about Btecs and other vocational qualifications?

There will also be some adjustments made to Btecs, although the DfE has not announced exactly what these will be yet.

The DfE has said that “students taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations” to keep things fair.

These adjustments might look different depending on the subject though – “some vocational qualifications will require more varied adaptations due to the different qualification types,” the DfE added.

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