As a result of disruption to learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students sitting A-Level and GCSE exams this year will be given ‘clues’ as to what will appear on their exam papers. From 21st February, pupils will be able to access advance tips of what topics will come up and examiners will be asked to be more ‘generous’, as previously reported by Freshered.
The exams should be going ahead in the summer this year for the first time since 2019 after they were cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Last year, students were assessed by their teachers based on a combination of coursework and mock tests, resulting in grade inflation. The algorithmic system used in summer 2020 caused chaos and was condemned on the grounds that it was unfairly biased towards awarding grades to private schools.
This year, despite some potentially generous grade boundaries, the advance notice of exam content is not supposed to reduce the amount of syllabus content students will be tested on, according to the Department for Education.
‘There will be generous grading’
All subjects – excluding history, ancient history, geography, English literature, art and design – pupils will be given prior notice of the exam content. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stated that these changes would ensure pupils are able to ‘do themselves justice’ in the summer exams.
However, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, Dr Mary Bousted, spoke to the Independent, stating that this release of advance information had come ‘too late’ to make any significant impact on the students’ education.
An Ofqual spokesperson told the Independent: ‘As well as the other adaptations discussed in the Joint Council for Qualifications technical briefing […] there will be generous grading. This will be delivered after marking is complete and when senior examiners set grade boundaries.
‘It is likely to mean grade boundaries will be a little lower than they might have been in a normal year, but grade boundaries are never set in advance, and so we cannot be precise at this point in the year.’
General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, told the Independent: ‘We look forward to seeing the information being published to help students focus their revision for this summer’s exams.
‘It is extremely important that this really does help to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on learning, and we will be studying it in detail to ensure that it provides fairness to students of all ability levels.’