Here’s how the grades for your cancelled GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams will be decided

This summer, exam grades will be determined by your teachers – but there will be checks in place to make sure they’re fair

Updated on 19 August

Schools have shut down and all of this summer’s exams have been cancelled. But if you were due to take GCSE, AS-level or A-level exams this year you’ll still be getting grades for all your subjects.

Here's everything you need to know about how calculated grades will work this year.

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Why did the exams get cancelled?

As part of the government’s plan to slow down the spread of coronavirus, all schools across the UK were shut down from Friday 20 March, and all of this summer’s exams have been cancelled. This includes all GCSEs, A-levels, Btecs and other vocational technical qualifications.

How will my grade be decided?

The calculated grade process started with your teachers. They were asked to give each of their students a grade for each of their subjects, and then to rank those students within each grade band.

These grades were based on evidence such as: 

  • classwork 
  • bookwork 
  • any participation in performances in subjects such as music, drama or PE 
  • any non-exam assessment – whether or not complete 
  • the results of any assignments or mock exams 
  • previous examination results – for example, for any re-sitting students or those with relevant AS qualification 
  • any other records of student performance over the course of study  

Schools also had to provide a declaration from the headteacher. The head needed to sign off on all the assessment grades and rank ordering, to confirm it’s a true representation of student performance.

All of those grades were then run through an algorithm by the exam boards to be 'standardised'. The idea was to ensure that the spread of results was fair, and in line with previous years.

However, following the release of A-level results, this standardisation model has been abandoned. It will not be used for GCSE results either.

So the exam results you get will be your teacher grades (known formally as centre assessment grades or CAGs).

Will my grades be based on how well I did in my mocks?

Teachers will take mock exam results into account when they’re deciding grades, but they won’t be the be-all and end-all.

They will be asked to look at mocks in the context of your overall performance, and Ofqual has said that they “will not be the decisive factor”. So if you’ve been getting good marks all year but you bombed your mocks, you shouldn’t worry too much.

Will my grades be based on how well I did at GCSE or KS2?

No. Teachers are not being asked to look at your previous exam results for their assessments and exam boards will not use this information for their data modelling. So your previous performance in exams outside of your current course will not be considered.

When will the results be released?

The education secretary has announced that GCSE, AS-level and A-level results days will be the same as originally planned. 

GCSE students will get their results on Thursday 20 August and AS-level and A-level students will get their results on Thursday 13 August.

Can I bump up my predicted grade by handing extra work in now?

Ofqual has asked teachers to “exercise caution” around using any work you’ve handed in since the lockdown for their assessments. So it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sway your teachers’ opinions with any new work.

“There is no requirement to set additional mock exams or homework tasks for the purposes of determining a centre assessment grade, and no student should be disadvantaged if they are unable to complete any work set after schools were closed,” Ofqual said in a statement.

Should I finish my coursework that I haven’t handed in yet?

Schools and colleges have been told that students do not need to be asked to complete any unfinished non-exam assessment work for the purposes of grading.

What if my teacher doesn't like me? Could they give me an unfair grade?

There will be a process of checks in place to make sure that the grades your teachers decide are fair. Once your teacher has settled on your grade, heads of department and head teachers will have to sign off on it.

What if I think my grade is wrong?

The exams regulator, Ofqual, has made it clear that you won’t be able to challenge your calculated grade or ranking on the basis that you think your teacher has made a bad decision and you want someone else to check your results.

This is because allowing these kinds of individual appeals would delay the results being published, Ofqual says.

You will only be able to appeal your results if you think an administrative error was made with your grade – for example, your name was mixed up with someone else’s and the wrong grade was entered into the system.

If you think this might have happened, you’ll need to ask your school or college to open an appeal on your behalf. The deadline for submitting an appeal is 17 September, and your grade will be protected so it definitely won’t go down.

Alternatively, if you think you were affected by bias or discrimination, the first thing to do is speak to your school or college and raise a complaint through them. If that does not solve the issue, you could consider going to the exam board.

“It is important to remember that this would not be an appeal, but rather an allegation that malpractice or maladministration occurred in relation to your centre assessment grade(s) or rank order position(s). Such allegations would be serious, and taken seriously,” Ofqual has said in its guidance on appeals and malpractice

If you think that you might have the grounds for an appeal, you can find out more about what you need to do here

There will also be a round of optional exams in the autumn that you will be able to take if you think your calculated grade is incorrect. These exams will run from Monday 5 October until Friday 23 October, with results expected on Thursday 17 December 2020

Will I be allowed to take my exams later?

If you're not happy with your grades, you’ll be able to take an optional autumn series of exams if you want to.

GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams will be offered for all subjects that should have run in the summer.

A-level and AS exams will start on Monday 5 October and finish on Friday 23 October, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has confirmed. Results day is expected to be on Thursday 17 December. 

GCSE exams will start on Monday 2 November and finish on Monday 23 November 2020. Results day is expected to be on Thursday 11 February 2021. 

You can find links to all of the exam boards' full timetables for the autumn exams here.

What if I am taking exams other than GCSE, AS-level or A-level?

The process outlined by Ofqual on Friday 3 April does not apply to qualifications other than GCSEs, AS-levels or A-levels. 

However, Ofqual has said the same aims apply to qualifications such as BTECs. Here's the latest information from Ofqual on how Btecs and other vocational qualifications will be graded

What happens if I take my exams later and I get a worse grade than I was predicted?

The good news is, if you take your exams in autumn and you get a lower mark than your predicted one, you’ll get to keep the higher predicted grade instead. This means there's no risk attached to taking the exam.

If I decide to take the autumn exams, does that mean I’ll have to wait a year before I can go to university?

This will be up to the individual universities.

Ofqual has asked universities to show flexibility on start dates for students due to join in 2020. It says: "We have asked organisations that represent higher and further education providers to consider how they might be flexible in admissions decisions, considering delays to entry to courses, for any students choosing to take an exam this autumn.

"We are reassured to hear that they believe that institutions will be flexible wherever possible, but we recognise this might only be possible in a minority of cases."

If you are concerned about your confirmed university place, you should contact the relevant university once results have been released.

Will exam grades earned in 2020 be looked down on?

No. Your grades will be recognised by colleges, universities and employers as the same as other years. The whole point of awarding grades despite the exams being cancelled is to allow you to progress normally, whether that’s through further education or starting a job.

Ofqual has said: "The grades awarded to students will have equal status to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers. On the results slips and certificates, grades will be reported in the same way as in previous years."   

I was planning to take a GCSE a year early, how will this affect me?

Students in Year 10 and below who were due to sit exams this summer will be given calculated grades, Ofqual has decided.

What happens if I’m home-schooled or other private candidate?

The situation remains less clear-cut for private candidates.

If you have some kind of relationship with a school or college where teachers have been involved in your work, you’ll be awarded a grade in the same way as other students.

If your centre has said that they will not be able to give you a calculated grade, you are allowed to ask to move to a different centre. If that move is approved, you will have to give the new centre evidence of your work. 

Your other option will be to sit the optional autumn exams. 

Read more about how calculated grades will work for private candidates here

More useful links

Other useful links

The Department for Education has launched a helpline to answer students' education-related questions about coronavirus.

Phone: 0800 046 8687
Email: [email protected]
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)

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