How Will GCSEs and A levels Work in 2022? A Guide for Parents

Published: 05 Oct 21
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The Department for Education and Ofqual have just revealed details on the plans for GCSEs and A levels Examinations in 2022.


GCSE and A level Grades will be lower than last year but higher than grades awarded in 2019

In 2020 and 2021, GCSE and A-Level exams were cancelled, and students received grades based on past assessments and performance in school. During these years, GCSE and A-Level results saw record grade inflation.

The government has just announced that GCSE and A-Level grades in England will be returned to pre-Covid levels over the next two years.

In 2022, GCSE and A-Level grade distributions will be pitched at a "midway point" between the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 and pandemic results from 2020/2021. These grades will be lower than 2020 and 2021 when teacher assessments were used, following the cancellation of exams, but they will be higher than those for the 2019 cohort.

The aim is to get back to pre-pandemic grading levels in two steps

The Chief Regulator of Ofqual says that "We aim to return to a pre-pandemic grade profile, but we don't think it would be fair on 2022's students to do it all in one go, given the disruption they have experienced. We will aim, therefore, to return in broadly two steps."

GCSE and A-Level Exam Boards will use data showing prior attainment as the starting point to set subject standards, as in any other year, but that these standards will be based on the average of the 2019 and 2021 results. Grade boundaries for each subject will be set by the senior examiners after they have seen students' work.

No new top grade at A-Level in 2023

Ofqual previously suggested that to tackle concerns about grade inflation, a new top grade at A-Level could be introduced after 2022.  Ofqual now confirms that there will be no new top grade at A-Level, with the aim instead to return the distribution of A-Level grades to pre-pandemic levels.

What happens if exams are cancelled again?

Teacher-Assessed Grades (TAGs) will be used again in this eventuality, as schools are already familiar with the process, but Ofqual has confirmed that it will advise teachers to use assessments that already take place during the school year, wherever possible, e.g. mock exams or coursework. As in 2021, students would be assessed on all the content they have been taught but not on any topics that they have not covered. Ofqual says it would not want students to worry that every piece of work they do would go towards their final grade and says students would be told in advance about which assessments would be used for TAGs. The assessment process for TAGs would not take longer than an exam series in the subject.

Exam mitigations for 2022

If GCSE and A-Level exams go ahead as planned, students will have a choice of topics in their exam for GCSE English Literature, GCSE History, GCSE Ancient History and GCSE Geography. For other GCSE subjects, where optionality is not available, students will receive, by 07 February 2022, advance notice of exam topics to focus their revision. This information would be released earlier in the event of further disruption to schooling caused by the pandemic.

Students will be provided with formulae sheets for GCSE Maths, and they will be able to use equation sheets in GCSE Physics and Combined Science.

The same mitigations will exist for GCSE English Language and GCSE Maths in the autumn re-sit series next year.

2019 grading profiles will be used to predict UCAS grades

Teachers will be advised to use the 2019 grading profile when predicting UCAS grades for university admissions this year but are also advised to bump up borderline students to the higher grade giving these borderline students the benefit of any doubt.

UCAS guidance advises that any predicted grade should be aspirational but achievable. UCAS guidance considers the risks of inflating predicted grades as well as the risks of suppressing predicted grades.

Results days are back to normal

In 2021, both GCSE and A-Level results were announced in the space of three days in the same week.

In 2022, the schedule will revert to the norm, with results days held over two weeks, with A-Level results released on 18 August and GCSE results on 25 August.

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