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A level results day: what to expect

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A levels and GCSEs

With only a few days to go until A level results day, the wait is nearly over for students, parents and teachers everywhere. This is the third year of results for reformed AS and the second year of reformed A levels. This year around two-thirds of the AS and A level results issued will be for reformed qualifications.

You may have seen reports in the press about our approach to awarding this summer. I’d like to reassure you on this. We and the exam boards are using the same tried and trusted principle that we’ve used in previous years to ensure fairness between cohorts over time so that those who are the first to take new GCSEs, AS and A levels this summer are not disadvantaged. We have been talking publicly about this approach for several years, and are delivering against it. Grade boundaries have been set using statistics to carry forward standards from previous qualifications. Senior examiners have confirmed that the standard of work in each subject is appropriate for the grade.

As in previous years, we have closely monitored the awarding in these qualifications, both new and old. We have reviewed the outcomes of each award (nearly 500 in total). Our aim in this work is to make sure that standards have been maintained over time and are comparable between exam boards, and that students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit new AS and A levels.

Teachers that we’ve spoken to have told us they thought the new exams were fair, which suggests that schools and colleges have responded well to the changes. As part of our evaluation work, we’ll be speaking to many more teachers in the autumn.

Here are a few things to remember when you’re looking at results:

  • For most A levels this summer, AS results (if students took the AS) did not count towards the A level grade. So students’ results will be based on the exams taken this summer (together with any non-exam assessment).
  • The standard of the A level has not changed, although the content has been updated and refreshed. A student who would, in previous years, have got a grade A ought to get the same grade this year.
  • A level entries are very stable, with only small changes in the numbers taking each subject. This should make it quite straightforward to compare this year’s results with those of previous years.
  • AS entries have declined from 650,000 in 2017 to around 250,000 this summer. That means comparisons between this year and last are less meaningful, as the profile of the students taking some subjects might be different from those in previous years.

What information will be available on results day?

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) will publish aggregated data for all students in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and for the whole of the UK at 9.30am 16th August, separately for AS and A level.

At about the same time, we will also publish some summary information, similar to the information we published last year. We’ll also be publishing some interactive analytics. We hope this will help to set the scene, for example where there have been significant changes to entry, or explaining which A levels or GCSEs are now reformed. And exam boards will publish information about grade boundaries and statistics relating to their own results.

Who should I contact if I have questions about my results?

Students and parents with questions about particular results should contact their school or college in the first instance. Teachers should speak to their Exams Officer and, if necessary, the exam board. There is also information on our website – a guide for schools which explains exam board processes in more detail, and information about the timetable for reform.

What if I think my results are wrong?

Exam boards have sophisticated processes in place to make sure that grades reflect how students performed in their assessments.  Where schools and colleges believe there is an error in the marking, there are systems to correct these when they happen.

If you think there is an error in the marking of a student’s work, you can apply for a review of marking (and there is a priority service for students whose university place is dependent on that mark). If there is a marking error, the exam board must correct it. They will not change marks where the reviewing examiner might have given it a slightly different (higher or lower) but equally legitimate mark. To do that would be unfair for all those students who do not request a review.

And finally…

To all those students (and their teachers) who have worked hard over the last two years and are now waiting for results, I do hope you get the results you are hoping for. But if your results are not what you were expecting, remember there is support available. Talk to your school or college, or to UCAS if you’re applying to university, and to friends and family – they will be able to help you, and they will remember what results days were like for them.

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  1. Comment by Tim Mercer posted on

    Michael Gove instituted a wholesale change of A levels and GCSEs to respond to accusations of exams becoming easier and consequent grade inflation. And yet you say that the standard of A level has not changed and students who would have got an A grade previously are as likely to get an A grade now. Having been involved with AQA and Edexcel regarding Business and Economics, I know that the content of exams was deliberately changed in order to make them harder, ie. for it to be less easy to get an A grade so that only the most 'deserving' got them. For Business in particular, more material was brought in from the first year degree course making the subject more demanding and reducing the ability of students to develop mastery of the skills in favour of them having to learn more content, specifically management theory models. To say that A levels are of the same standard as before suggests that either Gove's objective was not achieved or the content and structure of the new A levels is directly comparable to the previous 2008 revision, which is just not true. Your statement is both contradictory and confusing in light of the government's stated objective. Could you please clarify?