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AS and A level results in the autumn 2021 series

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A levels and GCSEs, Coronavirus (COVID-19), Exams

Today (16 December 2021) is results day for the autumn 2021 series for AS and A levels in England (GCSE results days are in January and February). We recognise the ongoing disruption that students continue to face, and pay tribute to the resilience of those who took exams this autumn.

The autumn series was put in place to allow students the opportunity to try to improve their grade from the summer, if they wished to do so. In the summer, grades were awarded on the basis of teacher assessments, as there were no exams. Students were also able to enter the autumn series if exam boards believe they had intended to enter in the summer, but they did not. Entry was available in all A level subjects, and in 5 AS subjects where the provisional entries in autumn 2020 were over 100 – specifically biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths.

The entries for AS and A level in the autumn series were small. According to figures published today by JCQ, there were approximately 6,800 grades issued for AS and A level this autumn. The cohort is therefore smaller than in autumn 2020, when approximately 17,000 grades were issued.

We have previously announced that, to be as fair as possible to students, exam boards should seek alignment with summer 2021 when grading in the autumn series. This is the same approach that we took in autumn 2020, when exam boards sought alignment with summer 2020.

Overall results

JCQ publish overall results for the autumn series. This includes a breakdown by subject. Because the cohort this autumn is very small and not likely to be representative of those entering in a typical summer series, or those entering last autumn, it is not possible to make meaningful comparisons with previous series.

Improving grades

Most A level entries in the autumn series are from students that also have a grade from summer 2021 (89% for A level). For these students, we have compared their grade from the summer with the grade they have achieved in the autumn. Given the very small numbers for AS, we have not made the same comparisons.

As we have outlined in a previous blog post in a typical exam series, not all students who re-sit improve their grade. The autumn series is not a typical re-sit series since learners did not take exams in summer 2021. We therefore cannot assume that every student will have improved their grade this autumn.

Our analyses show that, of the students who have a grade from the summer, just under 40% have improved their A level grade, around 30% have the same grade, and just over 30% received a lower grade.

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.

Grade boundaries

Given the purpose of the autumn series, the aim of grading was to seek alignment, as far as possible, with summer 2021. This is different to next summer, when the aim of grading will be to reflect a midpoint between summer 2019 and summer 2021. Additionally, with the exception of art & design, the autumn series was only based on examined components and did not include any non-exam assessment (NEA). Assumptions about the likely position of the grade boundaries in summer 2022 should not, therefore, be made on the basis of those that are published by exam boards for the autumn series.

There will also be other changes to assessments in summer 2022 that might impact on the position of the grade boundaries. In many subjects, for example, there will be advance information, and this might affect the spread of marks on some papers and the position of the grade boundaries. Similarly, there will be optionality in some subjects, and this might also affect the position of the grade boundaries.


Cath Jadhav
Director of Standards and Comparability

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