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2021 Exams: An Update

The government Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations, Ofqual, announced yesterday that GCSE and A level pupils will be able to see exam questions and mark schemes after the Easter holidays.

In an online webinar yesterday it was announced that:

"After Easter, as we consulted on, we will also be making the optional exam board assessment materials available openly in order that students and others can access them."

Many people are unhappy with this announcement, especially since pupils will also be able to appeal their grades afterwards if they feel they are unfair. Essentially, students will now take an exam whose questions and marking scheme they have already seen - and many feel this is a massive advantage for this year’s cohort of GCSE and A level students.

There is also the potential issue of those children with the most support at home being helped to essentially memorise the information required to achieve the best grade.

Ofqual have defended their decision, stating that in a recent consultation 66 per cent of respondents agreed that “exam boards should publish all of their papers shortly before the assessments  in order to manage the risk of some students being advantaged through papers being leaked.” Their reasoning is that since papers are due to be made available to teachers for assessment within schools, once this has been done it will be impossible to avoid them being leaked anyway.

It is also noted that:

“a wide range of questions will be made available  by exam boards so while students will have access to them all in advance, they will not know which ones if any (as the use of exam board materials is optional) their school or college will use.”

Ofqual has also published proposals for an exam series this autumn. It will be similar to the series held last autumn, but GCSEs may take place later. There is also question over whether AS level exams will be included, as there were low entries last year.

The autumn series will be available to any student who entered or had intended to enter for the summer exams - and students will then be able to use the better of either their summer or autumn grades. So far no decisions have been taken regarding the approach to grading and students will not be provided with advanced notice of topics to be covered in the autumn exams.

It has also been proposed that for the autumn exams, results will be based only on these exams with no coursework being taken into account. Subjects like art and design which don’t usually have formal exams would be assessed through students completing only a set task from the exam board.

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