GCSE and A Level exams will be adapted in 2021 to help students - including advance notice of topics

New measures will be brought into place for GCSE and A Level exams in summer 2021, due to the disruption caused to students by the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that extra measures will be introduced in order to improve fairness and prevent disruption, including advance notice of exam topics and generous grading.

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The Department for Education (DfE) said, “In recognition of the challenges faced by students this year, grades will be more generous, students will be given advance notice of some topic areas, and steps will be taken to ensure every student receives a grade, even if they miss a paper due to self-isolation or illness.”

What do the new measures include?

More generous grading than usual, in line with results from summer 2020Students get advance notice of some topic areas covered in exams in order to focus revision. They will get notice of these topics by the end of January 2021Exam aids such as formula sheets will be provided in some exams in order to cut down on the memorising requiredAdditional "backup" exams will be held in July. These will give students a second chance to sit a paper if they have to miss main exams or assessments due to illness or self-isolationA new expert group which will look at differential learning and monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country

If a student misses one or more exams due to self-isolation or sickness, but has still completed a proportion of their qualification, then they will still receive a grade.

Those taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations to their exams. However, some vocational qualifications will require more varied adaptations due to the different qualification types.

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A three week delay to exams in order to free up extra teaching time was previously announced in October.

‘This isn’t business as usual’

The decision comes after “extensive engagement” with Ofqual, exam boards and senior leaders across the education sector, says the DfE.

Mr Williamson explained that exams “are the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do,” arguing that this is why it is important that they still take place next summer.

However, he added, “But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible.

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“I am determined to support students, parents and teachers in these unprecedented times and hope measures like more generous grading and advance notice of some topic areas will give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success.”

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