Next year, students will sit exams, but we recognise they have faced disruption over the last two years and we've taken measures to make sure they aren't disadvantaged.
TO NOTE: This article was first posted on 30 September 2021 but updated on 11 November 2021 to reflect the publication of contingency plans in the unlikely event exams cannot go ahead in 2022.
Here we answer your questions.
Why are you bringing exams back?
Exams are the best and fairest form of assessment.
Over the summer, we ran a consultation, with the exams regulator Ofqual, on what adaptations we should make to GCSE, AS and A level exams in 2022 in response to the pandemic.
The consultation gathered more than 6,000 responses - with almost a quarter from students - and showed that more than 90 per cent of students and parents were in favour of giving advance information on the focus of exams next summer to support students with revision, and around 80 per cent or more agreed with offering choices of topics in some GCSE subjects.
What measures will be in place to make sure they are fair when different students have missed different amounts of time?
Students will benefit from a range of adaptations to GCSE, AS and A level exams in England - these adaptations will help them reach their potential following the disruption they've faced.
- A choice of topics or content on which students will be assessed in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography.
- Providing advance information on the focus of exams to support students' revision in subjects where there is not a choice of topics.
- Giving students formulae sheets in GCSE maths and revised equation sheets in GCSE combined science and physics.
- Changing requirements for practical science work and practical art and design assessments to ensure fairness.
These changes will also apply to the November 2022 GCSE English language and mathematics re-sit exams. There will be advance information deployed for both subjects in July, and a formulae sheet will be available for mathematics.
While it is the Government's firm intention for exams to go ahead next year it is right for contingency plans to be in place in the event they cannot. Ofqual and the department plan for Teacher Assessed Grades to be used if exams are cancelled and recently consulted on how this might work in 2022, building on the 2021 process.
What about grading - are you making any changes to that?
For the past two years, summer exams haven't been able to take place and, instead, students have been awarded grades by their teachers. Due to the difference in assessment approach, we have seen higher outcomes.
As we return to exams, we want to get back to the pre-pandemic standard, but in the interests of fairness, Ofqual (who take the decisions on grading) won't do so in one jump.
Instead, 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students' education has been disrupted. In 2022 the aim, therefore, will be to move grading to a point close to midway between 2021 and 2019.
Results are likely to be higher than in 2019, but not as high as in 2020.
Ofqual aims to return to results that are in line with pre-pandemic years in 2023.
When will GCSE exams happen in 2022?
GCSE exams will happen in May and June, as normal, and the exam boards have now published their final summer exam timetables.
When will A level exams happen in 2022?
A level exams will happen in May and June as normal, and the exam boards have now published their final summer exam timetables.
When will advance information be made available for GCSE and AS and A level students?
Advance information on the focus of summer exam content will be given in early February, though we are keeping the timing under review in case the course of the pandemic worsens. For English language and maths GCSE exams in November 2022, advance information will be given in July.
What is being done for vocational and technical qualifications in 2022?
It is the Government's firm intention that exams and assessments for VTQs and other general qualifications, including T Levels and Functional Skills qualifications, should go ahead in 2021/22 academic year.
Adaptations for Vocational and Technical Qualifications have been confirmed, following consultation. Colleges and schools are now being made aware of these changes by their awarding organisations.
We have also published our contingency plans for VTQs, which seek to achieve parity and consistency where relevant with the arrangements proposed for GCSEs and AS/A levels.
When will students get their results?
A and AS level results day will be held on 18th August 2022.
GCSE results day will be held on 25th August 2022.
VTQs most similar to GCSEs and A levels, that are used for progression, should be awarded on or before GCSE and A level results day. Other types of qualifications such as Functional Skills Qualifications, and those that are not tied to an academic year will continue to be awarded throughout the year.
What are your contingency plans in the event that exams cannot go ahead?
On 11 November, we confirmed that in the unlikely event that exams cannot go ahead, students will receive teacher-assessed grades instead. These grades would be based on a range of work - similar to what happened this summer.
It's important to be clear, though, that this is very much a last resort in the unlikely event that the pandemic means it is unsafe for students to take exams.
The plans follow a consultation we ran jointly with Ofqual earlier this autumn. It's important that we are prepared and ready to act, if we need to, to protect students' education.
Won't teacher assessed grades add more pressure to students and teachers?
To help minimise workload burdens on teachers and students, Ofqual has today published guidance for teachers on how they should collect evidence of students' work during the academic year. This guidance reflects feedback from teachers and school leaders to make it as clear and helpful as possible.