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GCSE, AS and A level results 2020: Everything you need to know

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Image: anton/stock.adobe.com

Exam results day is always a nerve-racking event. But this year, GCSE, AS and A level students face the unusual situation of getting results for exams they never sat.

And never before has there been so much controversy over the awarding of grades.

Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the grading and what your teen can do if they’re unhappy with the outcome.

When will the GCSE and A level results be announced?

AS and A level results were published on Thursday 13 August 2020, while results day for GCSEs will be later this week, on Thursday 20 August.

How have the grades been awarded?

It’s complicated! Initially, teachers in England submitted predicted grades to the exam boards, along with a rank order by ability of all students within each subject.

These grades were based on previous exam results (including mocks), coursework, homework and general progress during the course.

These predicted grades were then moderated by exam boards, to ensure that national results are broadly in line with previous years and there is consistency across different schools. 

Similar systems were used in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The outcome – for A levels at least – is that 35.6% of results were initially downgraded by one grade from the mark issued by teachers. Another 3.3% saw a drop of two grades, and 0.2% dropped by three grades.

After a chaotic few days, the government announced on Monday (17 August) that A level and GCSE students in England will now receive the grades estimated by their teachers, rather than those produced by exam regulator Ofqual’s algorithm.

That brings England into line with the rest of the UK: earlier that day, the Wales and Northern Ireland governments made the same change, while in Scotland, where results were released earlier this month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had already admitted the government had got it wrong – and pledged that students who are thought to have been disadvantaged will receive the teacher predictions.

What can parents and students do if they are unhappy with the results?

There is currently a fair bit of confusion around exactly what you or your child can do if they didn’t receive the grades they were expecting.

It’s a fast-changing situation and we’d expect more information to be made available soon – but right now your best bet is probably to speak directly to your school about it.

If your teen does not feel their grade reflects their ability, they will have the opportunity to take an exam in the autumn.

For help with the appeals process or suggestions about next steps, you can consult the National Careers Service.

There is also an Exams Results Helpline on 0800 100 900 or you can call Ofqual on 0300 303 3344 

Will there be a chance to sit the exams?

Ofqual has now confirmed that exams for all subjects can be taken in the autumn – even though there are worries about how schools will practically and safely manage this.

Students who want to improve their grades can take one or all of their exams. But all papers in a subject must be taken. And exams will follow the usual format.

It’s best for students to discuss this with the relevant teachers before deciding on their next step.

  • A level exams will take place in October, with an entry deadline of 4 September.

  • GCSE exams will take place in November, with an entry deadline of 18 September 2020.

  • Because of potentially high numbers for Maths and English Language, there is a later entry deadline of 4 October and the possibility of additional exams in January 2021.

And there’s no need to worry about grades going down: students can keep whichever grade is higher.

What if students miss out on the grades they need for their next step?

Autumn exam results would come too late for GCSE students who planned to start A level courses in September and A level students face the same problem with their university applications.

Given the extraordinary circumstances that students have found themselves in this year, schools and colleges are being encouraged to be more flexible about their sixth form entry requirements. 

The exams watchdog says schools should put “slightly less weight” on pupils getting “one or two lower grades”. 

There are hopes that universities, too, may show greater flexibility with students who miss out on their conditional offers, and they have been asked to keep places open until after any appeal decision.

What about vocational qualifications?

As vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) come in many forms, they are not all being treated in the same way by the exam boards and awarding bodies.

Different approaches will be taken depending on the evidence available, and the nature and structure of a qualification.

However, most students will receive calculated grades based on a range of information, including previously banked results, previous assessments and school or college results from recent years.

Unlike with GCSE and A levels, there is no standardisation system in place, but all awarding organisations have to comply with Ofqual’s quality assurance standards and ensure that results are in line with expectations.

You can read more about how vocational qualifications have been calculated here.

Image: anton/stock.adobe.com

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