Summer Exams and University Places 2020 — Update

Words by Quintessentially Education

19 June 2020

On 18th March, the education secretary in the UK, Gavin Williamson, announced that all GCSE and A-levels will be cancelled this summer due to the current school closures. International Baccalaureate has also announced the exams due to take place between April and May this year will no longer be held.

Understandably, parents and students have been left feeling anxious. They are wondering what is going to happen moving forward and how are they going to achieve their grades and progress towards future life stages. So where are we currently? In an aim to provide clarity on the situation as things stand, Quintessentially Education has provided some quick-fire responses to the most frequently asked questions of the last week:

1. How will grades in the UK be awarded without exams?

The government has confirmed each exam board will award grades using teachers judgement, asking teachers to 'submit the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.' This should be considered using 'a range of evidence and data, including mock performance exams and non-exam assessment.'

Ofqual, the government department for qualifications and examinations, has said it will also 'aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years so that this year's students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances.'

We are awaiting further clarification as to how over prediction and under prediction across schools will be monitored. Still, no doubt there will need to be policies in place to provide the fairest outcomes and to prevent unprecedented variations between the private and state sectors.

2. When will students receive grades?

Ofqual has said that they aim to provide pupils with their grades before the end of July. The exact date is yet to be released, but we anticipate the results will be earlier than traditional releases. This should allow more time for admissions adjustments if they are required for universities and higher education institutions.

3. What should pupils do if they are not happy with the grade they received?

If students feel they have not been given the grade they deserve, they will have the following three options:

  • An appeal process will be put in place for students to contest the grade they have been given.
  • Students will have the opportunity to sit their exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are back open, which could be in September 2020.
  • Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021 (for final year students this would be similar to taking a gap year with end of year resits)

4. What should students be doing now?

Don't throw away your books just yet! It is unclear whether students will continue to be assessed between now and when teachers' submit their judgement grade', but schools will likely still be using students work over the coming weeks and months as evidence for the final grade they send. Some schools have suggested they will have students undertake a mock exam at some point during the summer term as further evidence, so students must use this time to continue to prepare. Students must stay in communication with their school and teachers for the most up to date information, as decisions on what's used as evidence will vary from school to school.

If students are not happy with the grade they received, they will have the chance to take their exams once schools have re-opened, and therefore should remain prepared for this purpose too.

Students may also be required to provide evidence to exam boards should they wish to appeal any grades. Therefore, they should use this opportunity to collate any work and assessments they have done over the last academic year that may need to be submitted. It's not a bad time to start planning for the next stage either, so it could be useful to start thinking about your personal statement - even if you are currently in year 12, for example.

The University of Warwick has also advised students to 'keep a log of any disruption' that they have experienced during this time, which might include issues such as 'periods of self-isolation, disruptive teacher absences, dates of school closures and what alternatives (if any) are provided.' Whilst the universities do not need this evidence now, they may ask students for it later in the summer. Worth bearing in mind and worth reminding students to keep motivated for…!

5. What will happen to university applications?

Following the cancellation of exams, the government has confirmed that 'While it cannot be guaranteed in every circumstance, Universities UK has assured that the majority of universities will show the utmost flexibility to ensure that such students have the fairest chance of securing a place at their chosen university.'
The universities themselves are still processing these sorts of announcements, with UCL having released the following statement on their website and with similar messages from other institutions as well:

'We are currently processing the implications of the recent decisions by various exam boards around the world to cancel, suspend, or postpone their exams. We should have clear information on how this will impact the admissions process at UCL shortly'.

For official guidance and most up to date announcements, see the link for the official government website:

For useful FAQs answered by the government on exam cancellations, please see:

Please note, this was the most current information as of publication. Since the situation is ever-changing, or for advice on your child's case individually, please contact Quintessentially Education.

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