What’s happening with GCSE, A-level and Btec exams in 2023?

student during exam

Let's dig into this summer's exams

If you're taking GCSE or A-level exams this summer, you're probably wondering what to expect. Exams last summer were quite different from normal, with exam boards providing additional help for students and more generous grades. 

But what will exams be like in 2023? Here, we take a look ahead at this summer's exams: when they will happen, what help you'll get and what your grades might look like.

And don’t forget to join our A-level and GCSE study groups for support, guidance and resources to help you ace your exams.

How will exams look in 2023?

After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021, GCSE and A-level exams returned last year – but they were a little bit different because of the challenges students faced during the pandemic. 

To make up for missed lessons and a lack of exam experience, students were given advance information on the topics that would be covered in many of their exams. The idea was that this would help people focus on the topics they should revise - even if they had missed lessons on it earlier in the course.

In some GCSE subjects, such as history and geography,  students could choose from a list of topics to cover in their exam. In others, such as maths and physics, equation and formula sheets were provided that could be taken into the exam hall for reference.

However, GCSE and A-level exams will be more conventional in 2023 as things get back to normal. Here’s what your exams will look like:

  • Access to support materials for exams
    Students last year were told which areas to focus their revision on in many subjects, with advance information provided. You won’t get that information this year, but if you’re taking maths, physics or combined science exams, you will still receive formula and equation sheets that you can take into the exam hall.

  • Changes to modern foreign languages
    It might seem surprising, but up until 2019 exam boards included words that weren't on the course vocabulary lists in their modern foreign language exams. That stopped when exams came back in 2022 and the Department for Education says it's now a permanent change. Another change is that exam boards can also provide the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. So you shouldn't come across any words that are not on your course's vocab list in an exam.

  • Familiar assessments
    There were some changes made to GCSE and A-level assessments last year - science students didn’t have to do practicals and there wasn’t a practical exam for art and design students. But this year, everything will run as it normally did before the pandemic.

    This means you’ll be assessed on all the usual topics and content for your subjects, as well as fieldwork and practical activities (geography, geology, and science subjects), formal speaking tests (modern foreign languages) and a set task and portfolio (art and design).

You can see what other students are saying about the changes on this thread.

students about to take an exam

What will happen with grades?

As there weren’t any exams in 2020 and 2021, grades were decided based on teacher assessments. These grades ended up being much higher than in previous exam seasons. 

The grades for 2022’s exams weren’t quite as high, but they were still much higher than in the years before the pandemic. The grade boundaries set by the exam board were higher, in part because the students sitting last year's exams were likely to have missed parts of their courses due to school closures.

You can see an example of this in the table below, which shows the proportion of GCSEs that were graded at 4 or above in the past four years of exams. 


Proportion of GCSEs graded 4 or above









The exams regulator Ofqual has confirmed that this year grades in both GCSEs and A-levels will be lower. So, in the table above, you could expect to see the proportion of GCSEs graded at 4 and above being much closer to that 2019 number.

However, exam boards will have the flexibility to move grade boundaries lower than they were before the pandemic, if a lot of students have found exams in a particular subject difficult. 

Because of this, says Ofqual boss Jo Saxton: “A typical student who would have achieved an A grade in their A level geography before the pandemic will be just as likely to get an A next summer, even if their performance in the assessments is a little weaker in 2023 than it would have been before the pandemic.”

But, in that example, it’s also true that the same typical student would be a little less likely to get an A than they would have been in the previous three years.

What about Btecs and other vocational qualifications?

Although no specific details have been announced yet, providers of Btecs and other vocational qualifications have been directed to take the same approach as with GCSEs and A-levels in returning to exam processes and grading standards from before the pandemic. 

“Awarding organisations are expected to take a similar approach to general qualifications so vocational students aren’t advantaged or disadvantaged in comparison,” says Jo Saxton.

“For T-levels, we have asked awarding organisations to be generous to reflect the fact these qualifications are new.”

To read Saxton’s full letter about this year’s assessments, click here.

students during an exam

What about my predicted grades?

Teachers want your predicted grades to be high enough to bring out the best in you, but realistic enough that you can achieve them.

“For 2023, we recommend that teachers predict their students’ grades the same way they would have done before the pandemic,” says Saxton.

“Universities have told us that accurate predictions, in line with those before the pandemic, will make them more confident in making offers.”

When is results day?

A-level results day is 17 August 2023 and GCSE results day is a week later on 24 August 2023.