Exam Grades in 2021: Everything You Need To Know

On account of the disruption to schooling caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic, summer exams in the UK have been cancelled for the second year in a row (with the exception of CIE board exams). 

However, if you were supposed to be sitting GCSEs, AS or A Levels in 2021, you will still be receiving grades that reflect your ability, hard work and commitment to studying! 

Read on to find out the answers to YOUR most frequently-asked questions about exactly how your grades will be calculated, what you can do if you’re unhappy with them, and why you still need to be working hard as schools reopen this month. 

The following information is for students in England. You’ll find information for students from elsewhere in the UK at the end of the blog post.

My exams have been cancelled: how will my grades be calculated?

It will be up to teachers to decide on the grades that their students should be awarded in each subject. They will assign these grades based on evidence of the student’s capability: this could include a student’s essays, mock exam papers, homework or coursework. 

To help teachers make grading decisions, all exam boards will produce a series of questions in every subject. These papers will be voluntary and will not need to be taken under exam conditions. It will be left up to teachers to decide whether they are taken at school or at home, and how long pupils should take to complete them.

When assigning grades, teachers will only take into account the parts of the syllabus that the student has been taught (either in the classroom or remotely). 

Exam boards will carry out spot-checks on teacher grading to check that they are following the guidelines set out by the Department for Education, Ofqual and exam boards.

Will the government use an algorithm to standardise the grades?

There will be no repeat of the fiasco that followed the use of an algorithm to standardise grades in 2020. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has ruled out their use, saying “We will put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms”.

It’s not yet clear how grade inflation (when there is a higher proportion of top grades awarded than in the previous years) will be prevented.

When will I receive my exam grade?

Students will receive their teacher-awarded grades earlier than usual. 

Normally, students receive their results in mid to late August, but A-level students will receive their results on August 10th and GCSE pupils will get theirs on August 12th

This is to allow time for appeals to take place.

What if I think that my grades don’t accurately reflect my ability?

If you are unhappy with your grade and believe that you deserved a higher one, you will have the right to appeal (for free).

This means that an external regulator (not your teachers) will have another look at your academic ‘evidence’ in order to make a decision about whether your grade should be raised.

Can I sit real exams in the autumn?

Yes, Ofqual has said that students who remain unhappy with their grades after the appeals process will have a chance to sit real exams in the autumn.

Why should I keep learning if I haven’t got any exams?

Firstly, teachers have until the 18th of June to submit their assessed grades, so any work you do up until that time may be considered as part of your final grade. This means that you still have plenty of time to show your teachers that you deserve to be awarded top grades. The best way to do this is to prepare to excel in any upcoming mock exams, assignments and in the classroom. 

Secondly, taking exams in the autumn is a very valuable ‘insurance policy’ for students. But if you want to succeed in those exams, you can’t afford to stop learning now! Every single week of learning counts, especially when making up for lost time caused by school closures. 

Finally, if you’re planning to continue with your current subjects next year – whether that be at AS or A Level or at university, you really need this term’s knowledge. Starting September with gaps in your syllabus knowledge will set you back in your future studies, and could even impact your grades in 2022.

But there’s no need to panic about getting back up to speed: remember that throughout this spring and summer (and into the autumn) Save My Exams is here to support you! 

Need a reminder of exactly how you can use our resources to boost your grades? You’ll find it here.

Fill in any gaps in your learning with our teacher-written Revision Notes, and prepare for school assessments and coursework with our Topic Questions, Model Answers and Past Papers. 

Looking for expert advice on everything from study techniques to A Level choices and teacher top tips? You’ll find it on our blog, with new content added every single week!

Let’s work together to make this unusual term your most successful one yet.

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