On Thursday, over a quarter of a million students will get results for AS and A levels, new T Levels, and a range of level 3 vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs). This is the first summer exam series since 2019 and couldn’t have happened without the hard work and resilience of teachers, exams officers, invigilators, markers and moderators, and of course the students who took these exams.
Given it’s been three years since we last had summer exams, here’s a reminder of how students’ exams and assessments have been turned into grades.
- Marking has taken place as normal this year. Once an exam is over, students’ scripts are sent to the exam board and scanned. Most are marked online, and many of the papers are broken down into questions, so an entire paper can be marked by several different markers.
- Marking is anonymous. Markers don’t know a student’s name, which school or college they attended or where in the country they live.
- Marking is carefully monitored for quality. Markers are monitored throughout the marking period, from the very first script/question to the very last. There is more detail in our podcast on marking.
- Markers are experts. The vast majority of markers for GCSE, AS and A level are teachers or ex-teachers. Our recent survey showed they have an average of 20 years’ teaching experience and 10 years’ exam marking experience. Markers for VTQs are experts in their field and come from a variety of backgrounds.
- Moderation/verification took place largely as normal. There were some changes to the tasks set for coursework in GCSE, AS and A level, and adaptations to some internal assessments in VTQs, but marking, moderation and verification took place as normal.
- Grade boundaries have been set by senior examiners, after reviewing student work. Each exam board has an awarding committee for every specification. That committee is made up of senior examiners – experienced subject experts who have written the papers and led the marking. They review a range of evidence, including the work of students, and make recommendations as to where grade boundaries should be set.
- Grading has been more generous than when exams last took place, before the pandemic. It’s the right thing to do for students this year, to recognise the disruption caused by the pandemic. Awarding committees have been asked to be more generous when setting grade boundaries, in effect lowering the quality of work required to achieve a grade, compared to 2019.
- There is no quota of grades. Grading is not norm-referenced (awarding a fixed proportion of grades) and never has been. For more information, listen to our podcast on how grading works.
- T Levels and VTQs have taken similar approaches. These qualifications are diverse in the content they cover and the way they assess students so the changes for this year vary. But the overall approach has been the same – to recognise the disruption of the last two years and do the right thing for this year’s students.
- Ofqual oversees grading. Ofqual was set up to make sure standards are maintained over time and between exam boards. This year we’ve asked exam board awarding committees to be mindful of the context of the pandemic and to be more generous.
Students up and down the country have told us how pleased they were to be able to sit exams. They, and their teachers, have shown a remarkable level of resilience. We wish them well as they collect their results on Thursday.