Exams 2021/2022

Proposed Changes

The proposed changes for exams 2021/2022 can be found here (click link):

Exam Changes

In summary, these decisions mean that for summer 2022:

  1. There will be optional topics and content in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography. Ofqual will require exam boards to change how they assess these subjects to reflect the expected changes to the way the subject content is assessed, as proposed in the consultation.
  2. Centres will be allowed to deliver practical work in GCSE biology, chemistry, physics, combined science, geology and astronomy, AS level biology, chemistry, physics and geology, and AS and A level environmental science by demonstration. We would encourage centres to continue to make available hands-on practical activities for their students wherever possible. This does not require changes to the assessment arrangements that the exam boards have in place for each of these specifications.
  3. Centres will be allowed to assess the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required to enable students to demonstrate their competence in A level biology, chemistry, physics and geology.
  4. Exam boards can carry out remote monitoring of centres’ application of the CPAC.
  5. Students taking GCSE, AS and A level art and design will be assessed on their portfolio only.
  6. Exam boards will provide advance information about the focus of the content of the exams for all GCSE, AS and A level subjects (except GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography) for the summer 2022 exams. The advance information will meet the principles set out in the consultation document.
  7. The policy intention of providing advance information is that it will support students’ revision. Therefore, the DfE has confirmed that advance information will be provided by 7 February 2022 at the latest. This will enable teachers to plan to adapt their teaching in the second half of the spring term if necessary. DfE has also decided to retain the flexibility for advance information to be deployed at other points ahead of 7 February 2022 if circumstances require. At least a week’s notice will be given if it is decided that advance information will be released earlier than 7 February 2022.
  8. Students will be given a formulae sheet for GCSE mathematics in summer 2022. Exam boards will provide copies of the formulae sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the formulae sheet will be provided in the exams.
  9. Students will be given a revised equation sheet for GCSE physics and combined science in summer 2022, covering all the equations required in the subject content. Exam boards will provide copies of the equation sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the equation sheet will be provided in the exams.

These adjustments, along with the changes to non-exam assessment and fieldwork announced in June, are designed to mitigate the impacts of the disruption that students have faced during the pandemic without undermining the value of their qualifications and their ability to progress successfully to further study. In addition, Ofqual is considering how best to grade qualifications next summer in a way that is as fair as possible to next year’s cohort of students and also those who took exams in previous years or will take them in the future. We believe that, taken together, this package of measures will support teachers and students and enable exams to go ahead next year. These changes will apply to exams in 2022 and it is the intention that exams will go ahead as normal in 2023.

Grading Profile

Ofqual has stated its aim is to return the grade profile to pre-pandemic standard in 2023, with 2022 being a transition ‘midway’ point between 2021 and 2019. Chief Regulator, Dr Jo Saxton, states, “This approach will recognise the disruption experienced by students taking exams in 2022, over their course of study, and so provide a safety net for those who might otherwise just miss out on a higher grade. Results overall will be higher than in 2019, but not as high as in 2020.”

“For 2022, we recommend that teachers use the familiar 2019 standard as the basis for predicting their students’ grades, giving borderline students the benefit of any doubt. So if a teacher believes a student is likely to be on the borderline between 2 grades, they predict the higher one.”


Commentary - Steve Rollett, CST

There were a range of views on this issue and no clear ‘right’ solution. Rather, it was right that Ofqual considered the relevant trade-offs and focussed on ensuring fairness to young people and maintaining public confidence. It is important to note that there is no pre-determined ‘quota’, only a broad position on the overall grade profile. This is because entry patterns and the quality of work itself can affect the grade profile – both of which we don’t yet know. This is important as it challenges the misconception that grades are in some way arbitrarily locked in. We hope this provides confidence to pupils and the wider public that the grade profile will be as fair as possible in 2022. Ofqual has published a blog aimed primarily at students. With this decision now made, and as advocates for young people, we think it is important that the system, including CST, works to support this message of fairness and confidence.