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07 July 2022

Ofqual - 10 things to know about GCSE, AS and A level grades

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Written by

Stuart Ball | Chief Content Editor - Computing at School

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The last 2 years have been tough for students. That’s why Ofqual put in place an unprecedented package of support to make the path back to pre-pandemic arrangements as smooth as possible.

Here are 10 things that you need to know about grading and results this summer for GCSE, AS and A level. For students taking vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) alongside, or instead of, GCSEs or A levels, check out our VTQ blog.

  1. As Ofqual announced last September, the approach exam boards take to grading will reflect a midpoint between summer 2019 and 2021. Results will look different to summer 2021, because the nature of the assessment is different. It will be more meaningful to make comparisons with 2019 results, therefore, because this is when exams were last sat.

  2. Results in summer 2022 will be higher than when summer exams were last sat, but lower than in 2021, when grades were awarded by teacher assessment. Schools’ and colleges’ results are highly likely to be lower than in 2021 when exams did not go ahead. Very few schools or colleges, if any, will get higher results than in 2021.

  3. There will be an important role for examiner judgement in grading, as in any year. Senior examiners will review the quality of student work over a range of marks, before recommending grade boundaries based on all of the available evidence. Exam boards are responsible for setting grade boundaries, and Ofqual will monitor this.

  4. Exam boards will use data from 2019 and 2021 as a starting point for grading. Using data is important to support alignment between exam boards, so that it is no easier to get a grade with one exam board than another. This will also ensure that any inevitable differences in advance information (due to different specification structures) won’t make it easier, or harder, for students to get a particular grade.

  5. Grade boundaries will likely be lower than when summer exams were last sat in 2019. This might not always be the case though. Grade boundaries change each year to reflect any differences in the demand of the question papers.

  6. Students’ grades will be determined only by the number of marks they achieve on the assessments. It doesn’t matter where in the country students are located, or the type of school or college they attend; the same grade boundaries will apply to everyone taking the qualification.

  7. Students will achieve the marks they gain in their exams in many different ways. The assessments are what’s known as compensatory; so good performance in one paper or section can make up for poorer performance elsewhere. That’s why GCSEs, AS and A levels are not (and have never been) criterion-referenced. Marking is happening as normal, and according to the agreed mark schemes.

  8. GCSEs, AS and A levels are also not norm-referenced. There is no quota for the number of students that can get a particular grade – and there never has been. Grade boundaries are never set until after students have sat the assessments and they have been marked.

  9. Results will be part-way between those of summer 2019 and summer 2021. It is unlikely that results will be precisely at a midpoint between summer 2019 and 2021 – overall or for individual subjects. This will also likely vary at different grades, because it will depend on how students have performed.
  10. Results in summer 2021 were higher than in 2019 to a greater extent in some subjects than others. Our approach this summer allows us to begin to re-establish pre-pandemic relationships between subjects. We will, however, be requiring exam boards to award GCSE French and German more generously at grades 9, 7 and 4, following our announcement in 2019 that we would seek better alignment between these subjects and GCSE Spanish.

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