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A-level and GCSE exam results 2022: 10 Things you need to know about how Ofqual has told exam boards to grade students’ results this summer

A-level and GCSE exam results 2022: 10 Things you need to know about how Ofqual has told exam boards to grade students’ results this summer

by Tabitha BardaJuly 28, 2022

As UAE students and pupils all over the world endure the nail-biting wait for their GCSE and A-Level exam results this August, the anxiety is unlikely to be quelled by the announcement from Ofqual, the exam board regulator, that students’ grades in 2022 will almost certainly be lower than they were last year.

Ofqual’s chief regulator, Jo Saxton, said that she would be “really surprised” if any school achieves better exam results than it did in 2021, when teacher assessment was used to grade GCSEs and A levels.

While this is all in aid of reducing grade inflation, it does little to help the plight of exam students this year, who have already had to grapple with pandemic disruption to their education and, in some cases, even distressing errors in their final exam paper questions.

The prospect of lower exam results and a tougher grading system than 2021 is especially worrying for this year’s school-leavers, who also face unprecedented competition for university places. This is partially as a fall-out from the pandemic – which means this year’s cohort will be competing against many of the more generously graded deferred students from 2021 – and partially due to a mid-2000s baby boom, which is set to affect future years too. In some cases, the number of places at available at university have been more than halved.

Nevertheless, in a podcast interview published by the exams regulator in June, Saxton explains that Ofqual has tried to “level the playing field” for the disruption that students have faced through Covid, so that they get the grade they would have achieved had there not been a pandemic.

Exams will be marked in the same way as in normal years but Ofqual has said exam boards are taking the impact of Covid into account when looking at grade boundaries.

Parents, students and teachers are still bound to have many questions about the marking system, exam results and grade boundaries this year. Here is Ofqual’s list of 10 things that you need to know about grading and results this summer for GCSE, AS and A level.

10 Things to know about how A-level and GCSE exam results are being marked in 2022

  1. As announced last September, the approach exam boards take to grading will reflect a midpoint between summer 2019 and 2021. Results will look different to summer 2021, because the nature of the assessment is different. It will be more meaningful to make comparisons with 2019 results, therefore, because this is when exams were last sat.
  2. Results in summer 2022 will be higher than when summer exams were last sat, but lower than in 2021, when grades were awarded by teacher assessment. Schools’ and colleges’ results are highly likely to be lower than in 2021 when exams did not go ahead. Very few schools or colleges, if any, will get higher results than in 2021.
  3. There will be an important role for examiner judgement in grading, as in any year. Senior examiners will review the quality of student work over a range of marks, before recommending grade boundaries based on all of the available evidence. Exam boards are responsible for setting grade boundaries, and Ofqual will monitor this.
  4. Exam boards will use data from 2019 and 2021 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. This will also ensure that any inevitable differences in advance information (due to different specification structures) won’t make it easier, or harder, for students to get a particular grade.
  5. Grade boundaries will likely be lower than when summer exams were last sat in 2019. This might not always be the case though. Grade boundaries change each year to reflect any differences in the demand of the question papers.
  6. Students’ grades will be determined only by the number of marks they achieve on the assessments. It doesn’t matter where students are located, or the type of school or college they attend; the same grade boundaries will apply to everyone taking the qualification.
  7. Students will achieve the marks they gain in their exams in many different ways. The assessments are what’s known as compensatory; so good performance in one paper or section can make up for poorer performance elsewhere. That’s why GCSEs, AS and A levels are not (and have never been) criterion-referenced. Marking is happening as normal, and according to the agreed mark schemes.
  8. GCSEs, AS and A levels are also not norm-referenced. There is no quota for the number of students that can get a particular grade – and there never has been. Grade boundaries are never set until after students have sat the assessments and they have been marked.
  9. Results will be part-way between those of summer 2019 and summer 2021. It is unlikely that results will be precisely at a midpoint between summer 2019 and 2021 – overall or for individual subjects. This will also likely vary at different grades, because it will depend on how students have performed.
  10. Results in summer 2021 were higher than in 2019 to a greater extent in some subjects than others. The approach this summer allows Ofqual to begin to re-establish pre-pandemic relationships between subjects. They will, however, be requiring exam boards to award GCSE French and German more generously at grades 9, 7 and 4, following their announcement in 2019 that we would seek better alignment between these subjects and GCSE Spanish.

You can see the list on Ofqual’s website here.


So where does this leave us?

The above, at the least, means we should all start managing expectations. If we have learned anything in recent years, however, nothing will be certain until Results Day. We will be covering both GCSE Results Day on the 25th August 2022 and A Level Results Day on 18th August 2022 with live news here from 7:00am on both days, so join us then on SchoolsCompared.com to find out exactly just how policies by the examination boards, Ofqual and the UK government do impact on all of us in the UAE.

Do you think exam grading will be fair this year? We would love to hear from you. Email [email protected] in complete confidence to share your thoughts.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2022. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of SchoolsCompared.com. Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and SchoolsCompared.com's The School's Report - the global weekly round up of what matters in education for parents which is published every Friday, reviewing schools across the UAE - and features on issues that really matter. You can often find Tabitha on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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