How will 2021 exams be assessed?

Categorised in: Insights | Posted on: 6 January 2021

On 4 January the UK entered its third national lockdown. With all schools closed, what does this mean for 2021 exams?

What we know

Due to the school closures GCSE and A level 2021 exams have been cancelled. At the time of writing, BTEC exams will still go ahead as planned this month, but only where schools judge it is right to do so.

Schools are closed at least until the February half term, with the exception of nurseries and some university courses. Vulnerable children and those of key workers are able to attend school.

Primary school Year 6 Sats have been cancelled.

Schools must provide remote learning of three to five hours per day and Ofsted has been asked to monitor this.

Will 2021 exams still be assessed?

Yes. The DfE in conjunction with Ofqual have asked teachers to assess grades. Ofqual will devise a plan as to what these assessments will entail. Replacement grades could include: “tests, homework, mock exams and teachers’ observations – and would take into account how much of the syllabus had been covered.”

Alternative arrangements to the exams are being sought that use teachers’ grades, with some process of moderation.

“We’re going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms”, the education secretary said.

The latest from Ofqual is for students to “continue to engage as fully as you can in your education.”

How will GCSE and A level 2021 exams be assessed?

A teacher-based assessment will determine students’ GCSE and A level grades this summer. England has follow Wales and Scotland’s lead who are carrying out internal, teacher-based assessments. When we know more, we will update this blog.

International GCSE (iGCSE) exams are still going ahead. Students are advised to contact their school and examination boards directly for clarification. (Oxford AQA, Cambridge Assessment and Edexcel). The iGCSEs are independent of Ofqual and different guidelines may apply.

Similarly, International Baccalaureate (IB) students should contact their schools directly for clarification on the summer exams. The most recent update can be found on the IB website

How will entrance exams be assessed?

Many independent schools have already made changes to their entrance exams this year. We highly recommend discussing the latest update directly with the schools for more information.

13+ Common Entrance exams are assessed by the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB), which is independent of Ofqual. The ISEB has not yet said whether the exams will still go ahead as planned. 

What we advise

We recommend that students keep studying in line with their current courses. Students will take teacher-based assessments instead of written papers. It’s important to keep up to date with classwork as normal. We’ll keep you posted!

Lucy Cawkwell, Founder & Managing Director

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