Exams 2021 – Frankie Stenning

This year the 2021 exam cohort have seen disruption to their learning and exams. Hopefully this article can shed some light on what may be happening.

Why are exams cancelled?

A level and GCSE exams this year are cancelled due to the current pandemic. This we were told just before coming back to online school. Unlike last year’s cohort, this year they were cancelled due to the disruption to learning many pupils have experienced. Additionally, they were cancelled far earlier than last year; it is January and many schools have not sat mock examinations yet.

BTEC exams, however, have been going ahead in some schools. This is dependent on whether the school or college deem it safe and fair for their students to take these exams. Those that cannot due to COVID or other reasons will be assessed in a fair way.

What do we know right now?

What we do know is that the same grade leniency given last year will be given to those due to sit exams this year. This means that similar grade inflation, seen once centre assessed grades replaced the algorithm, should appear this year.

With those sitting exams, such as BTECs or exams with international boards, this leniency will also appear. This is more likely to appear in lower-than-normal grade boundaries. Nevertheless, exam boards will do all they can to ensure that no students are disadvantaged because they will take exams.

Gavin Williamson

How might grades be awarded?

What we do know is that for those with exams cancelled, teachers’ assessment is the priority for formulating grades. This may appear in different ways.

Recently, Gavin Williamson suggested that there will still be some sort of examination used to formulate and provide evidence for teacher assessed grades. This may be done through exam boards setting exams for students to take which teachers will mark. In other words, these would be like informal final exams – almost like a second mock.

Another idea is using mocks and coursework (in subjects with coursework) as the main basis of evidence for grades. This, however, seems unlikely due to the fact that many schools have not been able to sit mocks or have sat them online in an nontraditional exam environment. It would also place a lot of unfair pressure on mocks which tend to be the beginning of students’ revision for their final examinations after the Easter holiday.

Nevertheless, teachers and exam boards will ensure that a fair system will be used to assess students’ abilities and formulate a grade that they would likely have achieved if the exams were happening. This may differ across subjects as some courses, like art, have less exam-based content than others, like science.

What should we do currently?

Right now, as all the teachers have been saying, it is unclear how grades will be awarded. Therefore, it is important to carry on working as if exams were taking place. Continue to work hard and begin revising.

If you have any questions or are worried in any way, the best thing to do is to talk to your teachers and tutors. Chatting to your peers will also help to maintain a sense of normality during this period.

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