This Thursday (17 August) is results day for AS, A levels, T Levels and a range of level 3 vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs). Students from across the country have told us that they wanted to sit exams and formal assessments to show what they know, understand and can do. Grades have been determined solely on the work that students have produced, and students should be proud of their achievements.
This wouldn’t have been possible though without the hard work and resilience of all those involved each exam series – teachers, exams officers, invigilators, markers and moderators, and of course, the students themselves. We’d also like to recognise the hard work of so many school, college and training provider staff who have been involved in delivering the new requirements to support the timely delivery of VTQ results this summer.
Ofqual set out a 2-year plan in September 2021 to return to pre-pandemic grading this summer. This means that results will be lower than summer 2022. Getting back to normal is important so that qualifications 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 a few reminders about marking, grading and results this summer:
- Marking, moderation and verification have taken place as normal this year. Once an exam is over, students’ scripts are sent to the relevant awarding organisation. Many are marked on-screen, and the papers are broken down into questions, so an entire paper can be marked by several different markers. Moderation and verification for internal assessments have taken place as normal this year.
- Marking is anonymous and carefully monitored. Markers don’t know a student’s name, the school or college they attended or where they live. Markers are monitored for quality throughout the marking period, from the very first script or question they mark, to the very last.
- Markers are experts. The vast majority of markers for GCSEs, AS and A levels are teachers or ex-teachers. They have an average of 20 years’ teaching experience and 10 years’ examining experience. Markers for VTQs are experts in their field and come from a variety of backgrounds.
- There is a return to pre-pandemic grading this summer. For GCSEs, AS and A levels, there is protection in place and allowances have been made where the quality of student work is a little weaker than before the pandemic. 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. VTQs are all different, so awarding organisations have considered what was appropriate for their qualifications. Many students took adapted assessments in 2021/2022 to free up time for teaching and learning. Where possible, senior examiners have also been monitoring for evidence of disruption and have taken this into account when setting grade boundaries for externally examined assessments.
- Technical Qualifications (within T Levels) have been graded generously because they are new qualifications. When new qualifications are introduced, students and teachers are less familiar with the requirements of the assessments. That’s why we asked awarding organisations to be generous when awarding the Technical Qualifications (within T Levels) this summer.
- T Levels are fully based on formal assessments this year. Previously, some T Level results included teacher assessed grades. This means that the profile of results this year is likely to look different, so it will be important not to compare this year’s results with last year.
- Grade boundaries have been recommended by senior examiners, after reviewing student work. There is a committee of senior examiners – experienced subject experts – who have recommended the grade boundaries for each qualification. They do this based on a range of evidence, including reviewing the quality of students' work and data, and this year taking into account the context of the disruption that students have faced.
- Grade boundaries take into account the difficulty of the assessment. Grade boundaries change each year to reflect any differences in the difficulty of the assessments. If a question paper is easier, the grade boundaries will be higher; if a question paper is more difficult, the grade boundaries will be lower. This summer is no different, meaning that grade boundaries might be higher or lower than in 2019. Irrespective of the grade boundaries, everyone can be confident that the approach to grading this summer recognises the disruption that students have faced.
- Ofqual introduced new measures to support timely delivery of VTQ results. This included the introduction of a new deadline for awarding organisations to deliver results to schools and colleges. To oversee this important work, Ofqual established a new taskforce made up of senior sector leaders to monitor awarding organisations’ progress. These measures have brought greater visibility about the progress of results due this summer. In any year, some results may be withheld while issues are resolved - for example, an ongoing malpractice investigation. The measures introduced this year will allow us to identify any further systemic issues with the delivery of results.
- The number of top grades does not impact on the number of university places. Universities are aware of the approach to grading this summer and took this into account when making offers to students. Universities have told us that returning to pre-pandemic grading means that they can be more confident in their offer making.