This year GCSEs, AS and A levels are returning to pre-pandemic standards, with protection built into the grading process to recognise the disruption that students have faced.
Students are at the heart of Ofqual’s decisions. It’s important that we get back to normal so that grades prepare students for college, university or employment in the best possible way, and help them to make the right choices about their next steps.
Here are 10 things that you need to know about grading and results for GCSEs, AS and A levels this summer. For information on vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs), including Technical Qualifications within T Levels, check out our VTQ blog.
- As we announced last September, GCSEs, AS and A levels are returning to pre-pandemic standards this summer. Protection will be built into the grading process to recognise the disruption that students have faced.
- The return to pre-pandemic grading means that national results will be lower than last summer. It will be most meaningful to compare this year’s results with 2019, the last year that summer exams were taken before the pandemic. As in any year, results for individual schools and colleges will vary. The approach to grading means that results for individual schools and colleges are highly likely to be lower than last summer.
- Grade boundaries are set after students have taken the assessments and marking is nearly complete. Grade boundaries change each year to reflect any differences in the demand of the assessments. This summer is no different, meaning that grade boundaries might be higher or lower than in 2019.
- Senior examiners have an important role in grading. They will review the quality of student work, and will make allowances this summer where national performance is lower than before the pandemic due to disruption. This means that a typical student who would have achieved, for example, a B grade in A level geography before the pandemic, will be just as likely to get a B in geography in 2023, even if their performance in the assessments is a little weaker.
- Exam boards will use data as a starting point for grading. Using data is important to support alignment between exam boards, so that it is no easier to get a grade with one exam board than another.
- Grade boundaries will be recommended by experienced senior examiners based on all the available evidence, including their expert judgement and data. Exam boards are responsible for setting grade boundaries, and Ofqual will monitor this. There is no cap on the number of students that can get a particular grade.
- Marking is happening as normal, and students’ work will be marked anonymously by expert examiners. Students’ grades will be determined only by the number of marks they achieve on the assessments. It doesn’t matter where in the country students are, or the type of school or college they attend. The same grade boundaries will apply to everyone taking the qualification.
- Students will achieve marks in their exams in many different ways. The assessments are what’s known as compensatory; good performance in one paper or section can make up for poorer performance elsewhere.
- Ofqual’s approach to grading this summer allows the pre-pandemic relationships between subjects to be re-established. We will, however, require exam boards to award GCSE French and German more generously, following our announcement in 2019 that we would seek better alignment between these subjects and GCSE Spanish.
- Universities are aware of the approach to grading in 2023 and took this into account when making offers. And don’t forget, the overall number of university places available is not governed by the number of top grades.
Associate Director, Standards & Technical Issues, Ofqual