Today (14 January 2021) is results day for the GCSE English language and maths November exam series. Results day for other GCSE subjects taken in the autumn is 11 February. We would again like to pay tribute to the resilience of students who took these exams and we would again like to thank the schools, colleges and other centres who worked hard to put on this exam series during a pandemic.
GCSE English language and maths are typically available every November, but entry is normally restricted to students that are aged 16 or over. This November series, students were also eligible to enter if they were disappointed with their summer 2020 grade and wanted to improve this, or if they were unable to get a grade in the summer. The entries in November were much smaller than a typical summer, but are still relatively large and are higher than in previous November series.
As we have said before in our blog post on the autumn AS and A level results, to be as fair as we could be to students entering in the November series, we worked with exam boards to put in place arrangements such that the generosity from summer 2020 would be carried forward to these exams. Because the cohort was not necessarily representative of those that typically enter in a November series, statistical evidence was of limited use and awarding therefore relied on examiner judgement.
Overall results for the November series for GCSE English language and maths have been published by JCQ. This includes a breakdown of results for each subject. As the cohorts are unlikely to be representative of those entering in a typical November or summer series, it is not possible to make direct comparisons between the outcomes this November and in previous years – or between outcomes in November and summer.
It is also not possible to make meaningful comparisons between results for different exam boards. As in any exam series, one exam board might have a very able entry for a subject and see far more students getting higher grades, while another exam board might have a weaker entry and might see much lower overall results.
Most entries in the November series (around 73%) were from students that also have a grade from summer 2020. For these students, we have compared their grade from the summer with the grade they have achieved in November.
As I outlined previously in a blog post about autumn standard setting, in a typical year, not all students who re-sit their exams improve their grade. This year, the November series was not a typical re-sit series, since students had not taken exams in the summer. We therefore cannot assume that every student will have improved their grade this November. Our analyses show that, of the students that have a grade from the summer, around 45% have improved their grade, just under 40% have the same grade, and around 15% received a lower grade in November.
For those students who have not improved their grade, they will still be able to use their grade from the summer. Our student guide aims to answer questions students might have about their GCSEs, AS and A levels.