Exam board chief explains how GCSE and A-level grades will work in 2020

This year's results days will be very different from usual, says OCR head Jill Duffy

Many students will be feeling understandably nervous about their results in 2020. In this article Jill Duffy, the chief executive officer of the exam board OCR, provides some reassurance. She will also answer any questions you may have. Post a question for Jill using the link below the article.

If you’re a student who is receiving A-level or GCSE grades this summer, you will know that results days are nearly upon us – 13 August for A-levels, and 20 August for GCSEs.

Much of what will happen on those days is the same as every year, but a great many things are different too and you and your parents or carers may have questions about how grades have been determined.  

In simple terms, your grades will reflect the professional judgement of your teachers, with potentially some adjustments made by exam boards to ensure there is a level playing field across all schools and colleges.

This is a novel way of awarding grades, but it has been carefully thought through with lots of safeguards baked in. 

For example, it would have been understandable if some teachers had given the benefit of the doubt to some of their students in the circumstances, but this would not have been fair to other students.

So school and college heads had to review and sign-off the grades provided by subject teachers before they were submitted to exam boards. And then the exam boards used data about how students in the school had performed in previous tests, and how the school had generally performed in GCSEs and A-levels in the past to decide whether the grades submitted looked too generous or too harsh.

This means the grades awarded this summer are the fairest possible in the circumstances. 

Progression is key

As in any summer, some students will be delighted with their results, some will be disappointed, and the vast majority will be generally content.

Our number one priority this summer, along with the other exam boards and Ofqual, the qualifications regulator in England, has been to ensure the progression of as many students into further or higher education, or into employment as possible.

We have encouraged sixth-form, FE and university admissions officers to show understanding and sensitivity in the circumstances, and we hope most students can move on swiftly.

So if you are disappointed with any of their grades, we would encourage your first thought to be whether you can still progress with the grades you have been awarded, rather than to spend time contemplating these grades.

Talk to your parents or carers, and do please contact the school, college or university where you were hoping to go and check whether it is still possible to go. 

If you or your parents or carers still have concerns, then you should talk to your teachers. It may be that the school has made an error in its submission to exam boards, or we have made a mistake in our calculations.

These things can be checked and amended very quickly. If after all those things have been done it is still not possible for you to progress, then we would encourage you to take the opportunities available to sit exams this autumn or next summer. The full range of GCSE and A-levels will be available in both series. 

So come results days, we want everybody’s focus to be on the next steps in the lives of each and every student, rather than ‘what might have been’ in one set of exam results. Progression is the thing which affects life chances and personal histories, and we’re here to help that happen.  

If you'd like to ask Jill a question about any aspect of A-level and GCSE results this year, please use the link below.

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