Students will be able to take all GCSE, AS-level and A-level subjects in the optional autumn exams

empty exam hall

Subjects will only be withdrawn from the autumn exam timetable if nobody registers to sit them

This autumn, students will be able to sit optional GCSE, AS-level or A-level exams if they’re not happy with their calculated grades – and the exams regulator, Ofqual, has confirmed that these exams will be offered for all subjects.

This summer’s exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown, and students who were due to take them will be given grades calculated by their teachers instead. GCSE students will get their calculated grades on 20 August 2020, and AS-level and A-level students on 13 August 2020.

The government decided to put on an optional series of exams in the autumn for any students unhappy with their calculated grades who want to take them, and Ofqual ran a consultation to figure out the details of how these optional exams should work.

To run its consultation, Ofqual published a set of proposals for the autumn exams and asked for anyone interested to respond. It had around 3,500 replies from students, exam boards, schools teachers and universities.

In its consultation decisions, Ofqual reported that it had a high level of support for putting on exams for all subjects rather than focusing on just a few core ones, with 81% of the consultation respondents agreeing that this was a good idea.

If nobody puts themselves forward to sit an exam before its entry deadline, however, the exam board will be able to withdraw it from the autumn timetable, Ofqual has decided.

students taking exam

Autumn exam papers will follow the same format as they would have done for the summer exams

As part of its consultation, Ofqual explored whether the autumn exams should have a different format than usual – for example, by asking students to sit one longer paper rather than putting on several shorter ones. 

Ofqual ultimately decided to keep the autumn papers the same “as the summer 2020 exams would have been had they not been cancelled,” as it would be too expensive to reformat the papers.

Changing the format could also disadvantage disabled students, Ofqual decided, especially as there would not be enough time to produce accessible papers, for example in Braille or large fonts.

The autumn series grades will only be based on the exams for all subjects except art and design

Ofqual has decided that non-exam assessments won’t be taken into account for the autumn grades. In other words, if you decide to sit any of the autumn exams, your grades will only be based on the written exam and not on any coursework or any other assessments you’ve already done – even if you’re taking a performance-based subject, such as music, PE or dance.

This is partly because Ofqual decided that taking other assessments into account would be unfair on students who hadn’t finished their work before schools closed on 20 March, meaning their work was unlikely to have been moderated by an exam board.

The only exception to this is art and design, because this subject never involves students taking an exam. Art and design students who are not happy with their calculated grade will instead be able to sit a new supervised task in the autumn, and their grade will be based on this new task alone, and not on any of their portfolio work.

empty exam hall

The autumn exams will run throughout October and November 2020, and in January 2021 for GCSE English language and maths

The exact dates for the autumn exams have not been set yet, but Ofqual said that it’s aiming for AS-levels and A-levels to be held in October and GCSEs in November.

Schools will also be able to hold GCSE English language and maths exams in January 2021 if they would otherwise struggle to fit all their students into the November sitting.

Students will be able to get a replacement certificate that only shows the higher of their calculated or autumn grade

If you decide to take the autumn exams and you get a lower grade than your calculated one, you’ll get to keep the higher grade instead.

And now Ofqual has said that anyone can request a replacement certificate from their exam board that only shows the higher of their two grades. The exam boards will have to provide this, but they will be allowed to charge an additional fee.

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