June 19, 2024


International Student Club UK

Tests and assessments in the months in advance


I comprehend how difficult life has been for college students, their mom and dad and carers, and teachers this calendar year. Quite a few have had to self-isolate. Learners have missed various amounts of instructing and finding out time up and down the region. Academics, university and faculty leaders have had to do the job in truly remarkable instances, instructing learners equally in university or school and at property, finding them ready for GCSE, AS and A level exams following summer months, and for assessments and examinations for vocational and technological qualifications. Mothers and fathers have experienced to juggle doing the job and property schooling.

I do not doubt how unrelenting and demanding this has been considering that the begin of the pandemic. And I suspect it will keep on to be hard for some time as the impression of the pandemic washes via the schooling technique.

At Ofqual, we have been working really hard to glimpse at diverse choices for the forthcoming tests and assessments. We have been listening to pupils, moms and dads, teachers, school and school leaders and schooling companies. We have been working with the Section for Instruction, the test boards and awarding organisations. We have been talking to universities and faculties, equality organisations, topic associations and instructor representatives.

Why tests are the fairest

So, whilst there are quite a few uncertainties that we all face in the months in advance, I imagined I would established down what we at Ofqual are proposing and why. First, I require to say very obviously that we received it mistaken past summer and we are sorry. Like other regulators across the British isles, and with the most effective intentions, we worked with university and faculty leaders, the federal government and many others to establish a substitute for tests in a pandemic.

But it was not acceptable for a student to be denied the opportunity to demonstrate what they know, have an understanding of and can do, and instead to be presented grades that the procedure assumed they deserved. Summer months 2020 confirmed us the importance of examinations and exterior assessments. Despite each hard work and each individual very good intention, other techniques of evaluating learners are probable to be less reasonable.

We firmly help exams likely in advance subsequent summer. Tests allow for just about every scholar to clearly show what they know and realize from the curriculum and, importantly, everybody has the same likelihood to exhibit what they know. They are questioned the exact queries, at the very same time, and they are marked in the same way. And marked anonymously.

Investigation implies that when we assess learners utilizing a different system, bias can creep in. That is not usually the scenario, but the end result can be that shiny learners from disadvantaged backgrounds or students with special instructional requirements or disabilities endure the most.

If teachers were to allocate grades this summer months rather, they could, for illustration, presume that college students who have been absent from college would not do extremely nicely, when that may perhaps not be the case for absolutely everyone. It will be diverse for every single college student. Tests can let learners to pull it out of the bag.

Allow us not forget about, quite a few college students taking exams in summertime 2021 will be virtually two-thirds via their classes by now. And while we have read that some are anxious, we have listened to from others who are keen to show what they can do in an examination.

I know that college students have felt huge strain this phrase, as have their teachers. There ended up some issues we ended up equipped to agree early that will have assisted – variations to how articles is assessed in GCSE history and historical record, to aid teachers and learners go over that content in appropriate depth. Modifications to GCSE English literature, so that learners are assessed on just one much less text than usual. Improvements to fieldwork in a range of subjects and talking assessments for GCSE modern day foreign languages. Far more use of remote assessment and simulation of techniques, and elevated evaluation home windows in vocational qualifications. This has eased the strain on several college students and teachers. But we want much more.


We know how crucial grades are, and that individuals carry them with them their full life. We will need to be as fair to students as we can be in summertime 2021. Summer months 2020 results were one of a kind, not just in how they have been derived but in relation to the amounts of achievement recorded, when in contrast to former several years. General, A amount A and A* grades have been up by 13 proportion details and GCSE quality 4 and higher than by 9 share details.

We have resolved to carry forward the in general level of generosity from 2020 via to summer time 2021. This is a huge action that we hope recognises the disruption and lost finding out brought about by the pandemic at an in general, nationwide level.

What does this final decision imply for learners? It is very likely that college students researching GCSEs, AS and A amounts will not have to have to exhibit the same stage of efficiency in summer months 2021 as in past yrs to get a certain quality. But in standard, this means that pupils in 2021 have as a great deal prospect of getting a grade A or a quality 4 as they did in 2020. We took a similar technique to account for dips in finding out in the early yrs of new GCSEs. We and examination boards have the applications, and the expertise to do this rather.

We have made a decision on this radical stage mainly because we know that the pandemic has impacted learners and their research deeply, and that it carries on to do so. Some pupils in 2021 will be competing for larger schooling places or work with 2020 students, whose grades across the board were a ton higher than in 2019. Fairness matters.

All topics will be generous to the very same extent. For illustration, pupils having biology will not be in a much more advantageous position than pupils having history. What we saw in summer 2020 was that sure topics, these types of as tunes, obtained better grades total than other topics, and to carry on to manage all those dissimilarities would be unfair.

How will we do this?

Grading (also known as awarding) takes area right after tests have been sat, and after all the students’ papers have been marked. Examination boards total the marks across all papers and any non-test assessment, so that just about every pupil has an overall mark. Grading is the last move in the procedure.

Quality boundaries – the cheapest mark wanted for a individual quality – are set by senior examiners. In a ordinary year, they purpose to established a boundary that demonstrates a very similar good quality of work as previous many years. That could possibly suggest looking at the quality of essays in English literature or record, or the extent to which a university student can deal with the most elaborate problems in maths.

Subsequent summertime, we will regulate so that just about every exam board uses prior attainment info (from countrywide critical stage 2 or GCSE data) to determine quality boundaries to develop overall results in line with 2020. Senior examiners will review student do the job at those quality boundaries – to make positive boundaries are not as well reduced or much too near collectively. Then the ultimate quality boundaries will be set and utilized to all pupils.

As we oversee awarding, we will be keeping a near eye on how acceptable individuals grade boundary positions will be, as we have to have to make positive the public can be assured that the grades are credible. We are unable to bend tests out of shape much too a lot, or they turn out to be meaningless.

You can browse more about the depth of how we’ll do this in the tips we gave to the Secretary of Point out for Education.

Adapting examinations

We do not however know the extent to which college students getting their examinations up coming summer months will have had their education and learning disrupted by the pandemic. But we know that some pupils will discover the prospect of having examinations following summer season daunting, and some will really feel considerably less nicely ready than many others simply because of the disruption they have experienced.

We deemed a array of techniques to adapt tests. These adaptations are in addition to those people declared in August 2020. None of these solutions are easy. Every has pros and drawbacks, and just about every might impact distinct teams of students.

We suggest supplying learners and educational facilities progress detect in most topics of some of the topic regions that will appear up in the examination in advance of the test itself. This will permit revision and training to be more focused, with no unduly undermining the validity of exams. It suggests students can get their heads down and use their examine time as ideal they can. We foresee remaining ready to pre-announce the subjects and topics in January 2021.

This is an additional radical action. The written content of exams is normally really private, and we just take fantastic pains to make positive that test papers are held securely before those people examinations are taken. The queries on their own will not be discovered, but the broad matter or articles location. We think this will enable students who are at the rear of to come to feel far more self-confident about their potential to catch up. We will, though, want to make absolutely sure that this will be developed in a way that answers cannot basically be memorised or regurgitated. What a miserable sort of schooling that would be.

For some subjects, there could be added help components for use in the exam, these types of as components sheets. All of these achievable diversifications would implement to all learners taking the skills, regardless of how a great deal their schooling has been influenced by the pandemic.

Lecturers and pupils will be in a position to use the remaining time in advance of exams most efficiently, so this should really advantage these most affected by learning decline.

Some have prompt far more optionality in exams. This could indicate a broader option of concerns on examination papers – a bigger alternative of matters, for illustration. This appears attractive, but unfortunately the proof is that deprived or a lot less very well-geared up students typically make very poor query options. And it is in the vicinity of not possible to established optional inquiries at a specifically equivalent amount of trouble. This can consequence in some college students having to fulfill a bigger conventional than other learners, which is obviously unfair. We have recently published our study into optionality in the context of the 2021 summer months examination sequence.

Alternatively, some have instructed students could be allowed to drop a paper in a individual issue. A lot of topics have two or a few papers in each individual sequence. But this is also not as straightforward as it sounds. The 4 exam board specs are often structured in another way, so dropping a paper can have a differential effects based on the test board. That makes an uneven playing industry and is just not good.

Relying on appreciably a lot less assessment than in normal years (i.e. reducing down the number of exam papers or assessments a college student normally takes in a particular topic) could also cut down the trustworthiness of grading – the odds of a college student acquiring the grade they deserve. This can occur particularly in these subjects with extra subjective marking, these kinds of as sociology, or where by really different expertise or content are assessed in each component. Combined science, for case in point, has biology, chemistry and physics papers for some technical specs. Other requirements have papers that deliver jointly the content material across the 3 sciences. And in a summer time when we might hope far more pupils than normal to pass up a single of their papers thanks to ailment or self-isolation, it raises the hazard that a pupil may possibly pass up all assessments in a issue.

So, in outcome, introducing additional optionality could introduce additional issues than it would fix. Pre-announcement of exam content is a much less dangerous tactic and has the exact pros. Like optionality, it lets lecturers and learners to target in on parts of the curriculum but in a fairer way. It is also important to preserve tests as common as possible for pupils and teachers – variations can in some cases make tests more durable and extra annoying.

Misplaced learning

I would like to say a lot more about discovering decline, and how to enable learners who might have shed more studying time than other individuals – differential mastering decline. There is not a very simple option. Examinations and grading simply cannot repair the different ranges of studying decline by themselves. That is not what they are for and it is not what they do. Rather the solutions lie outside the house the exam hall.

Whilst the measures set out previously mentioned need to enable, greater and even further training have a portion to enjoy. That is why we have been speaking to the university and additional schooling sector about how they will interpret next summer’s final results when they are supplying areas to pupils. It is significant that customers of qualification effects comprehend that some learners would have carried out far better if the pandemic had not occurred and they will want to take that context into account in producing conclusions.

We welcome the govt location up an pro advisory group to glance additional carefully at this, and how to decrease or mitigate the differential effects on pupil learning.

We have ruled out the recommendation of regional grading – location distinct grade boundaries for diverse locations of the country. That would develop distinctive varieties of unfairness because the expertise in regions is not universal. Even in regions with higher an infection charges, there are colleges in which learners have entry to substantial high quality remote studying, and some universities report not getting driving at all.

In the same way, in fewer afflicted areas, there are learners who will be additional behind than many students in even worse influenced areas because they have been self-isolating with negligible remote learning in an setting that is not conducive to learning. And there will be pupils on the boundaries in between locations who will have very similar ordeals but who would be graded by means of distinctive quality boundaries. That is just not reasonable.

Some will question why teacher evaluation is not figuring far more prominently. If teachers were to assess learners and advise a quality that pupils may well have been predicted to obtain in an test, it even now would not make up for that missing learning. And, as the summer of 2020 confirmed us, moderating teacher assessments relatively is challenging to do in a way that commands the confidence of dad and mom and learners.

Contingency preparations

We welcome the government’s dedication to GCSE, AS and A degree tests going ahead following summer time, and we have been performing with officers at the Division for Education and learning to look at the choices open to govt to mitigate for the effect of the pandemic.

The Office for Training has set out the information of these arrangements to make positive that as quite a few learners as probable can get tests and assessments. Exam boards are doing work tricky on these preparations.

We will regulate exam boards to provide a contingency exam collection that will acquire place straight away after the major exam sequence – so, a little later on than the principal timetable – to give these college students who were being not equipped to choose their tests the 1st time spherical one more chance to do so. There are risks involved, but it is crucial to make absolutely sure that those people who pass up an examination as a result of no fault of their very own can even now get a qualification and we imagine this is the fairest way.

We do not, for illustration, want college students following calendar year to have to place their lives on keep and wait till the autumn to choose an exam. We want them to be ready to development to the next stage of their lives alongside with their peers.

The pupils we spoke to most popular the idea of a contingency examination collection held right after the main exam sequence to holding early tests. They felt it would give them as a lot time as feasible to capture up on lost mastering.

None of us has a crystal ball, and we cannot say what will transpire for certain more than the coming months, so we will set ideas in location to answer to even further disruption.


Some have prompt a complete sequence of mocks should be carried out in the spring so that learners have a quality they can bank. But that is not genuinely what mocks are for. Each individual faculty will use them in a a little bit unique way – at times they are utilized to locate out what learners do not know so that you can knuckle down and revise greater prior to the true examinations. Some mocks are completed incredibly early in the yr and administering them can take precious time that could be used for instructing.

Students whose training has been the most disrupted have to have the most time to capture up. We are not confident they would enjoy early spring mocks.

Vocational, technological and other skills

A quantity of variations have currently been made in vocational, technical and other skills to assistance mitigate the consequences of the pandemic. A extensive range of adaptations have been put in location and are staying used, with numerous assessments currently underway and continuing by the calendar year. But a crucial basic principle is that pupils taking these qualifications are not deprived compared to their peers getting GCSEs, AS and A ranges, and we recognise that even more adjustments could be wanted.

We anticipate some awarding organisations will make further more adaptations in light-weight of the selection by the Department for Schooling to allow a reduction of the variety of assessments for some Efficiency Table skills.

Where by vocational, complex and other typical skills have comparable constructions as GCSEs, AS and A concentrations and the exact same development routes into greater and more instruction or into function, several of the steps reviewed over will be ideal for other qualifications, distinct adaptations will be ideal. Awarding organisations will have to have to determine what is most appropriate for their skills, and we are encouraging them to feel as broadly as achievable.


This is a complex image with several thousands of qualifications staying taken in the coming months. We will also search at what happens outside of 2021 and at the process for England in the longer time period.

You can be positive that Ofqual will get the job done with the govt, examination boards, awarding organisations and the education sector to place arrangements for upcoming summertime in location, and to make positive learners, dad and mom and academics are educated about the detail at the earliest possibility.

We will carry on listening. We will post updates on our web page and have out a programme of communications concerning now and future summer months so that every person has the info they will need.

We are however in the middle of a pandemic. 2021 will once again be an extraordinary yr but we are identified to obtain the finest feasible results for each and each individual college student.