GCSE and A-level changes give pupils advance warning of exam content
12 Nov 2021
Teenagers in England will be given advance warning of some exam content next year because of disruption caused by Covid, the government says.
New plans also say GCSE and A-level students should sit three sets of mock exams to help decide grades, if exams are cancelled.
Teacher-assessed grades have been used for the past two years.
The headteachers' union said schools would be relieved - but that it placed "a great deal of pressure" on pupils.
Labour criticised the government for a "delay" in confirming a Covid backup plan.
Under plans confirmed by the Department for Education (DfE), AS and A-level students will be given some indication of the content exams will focus on, to help with revision.
There will be more changes to GCSEs - with formulae provided in maths exams, and equations in physics and combined science assessments.
In English literature, history and geography, schools will be advised to focus on a narrower range of content.
Advance warnings about content for both sets of exams will be issued by early February.
The DfE has also issued a back-up plan in the "unlikely" event that exams are cancelled.
It advises that, for subjects which are usually assessed with exams, schools assess pupils three times: in the second half of the autumn term, in the spring term and in the first half of the summer term.
It says these should be held "under exam-like conditions wherever possible" - meaning they should be timed, and without access to books and revision notes.
Julie McCulloch from the Association of School and College Leaders said having a contingency plan would mean a lot of extra work.
She said it would "probably" mean that students take both mock exams - which "may or may not count" towards their ' final grades - and formal exams.
"This is far from ideal and places them under a great deal of pressure," she said.
"But not having a contingency plan would risk a repeat of the chaos of the past two years, and therefore, on balance, this seems like the right course of action, and the confirmed set of measures appears to be sensible enough."
The cancellations mean that next summer more than 700,000 teenagers in England will sit high-stakes real exams for the first time in their lives.
The regulator Ofqual said overall grades would be moderated to be halfway between 2019 and 2021.
Jo Saxton, its chief regulator, said in a letter to students "exam boards will set the grade boundaries so that more students get higher grades in 2022 than before the pandemic".
She said this would provide a "safety net" for students who may otherwise "just miss out" on a higher grade.
"We have taken this decision to reflect the disruption that you as a cohort have experienced already in your course," she wrote.
Kate Green MP, Labour's shadow education secretary, said that students and teachers had already "had weeks of unnecessary uncertainty waiting for confirmation of assessment and contingency plans for 2022".
She said Labour had published a "plan B" for exams at the beginning of the academic year, adding: "The government's dither and delay has left teachers with less time and capacity to gather the samples of work needed."
Ministers have made clear they expect exams to go ahead in 2022, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
"The government believes that exams and other formal assessments are the best and fairest means of assessment, and the government's firm intention is that students will take national exams in summer 2022, set and marked by the exam boards," the DfE said.
A-level results 2021
A-level & GCSE Results 2019
How to write a Personal Statement for university
What is a personal statement?
A Personal Statement is a supporting document in your application to study at a university or college. It’s your chance to say why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you have that show your passion for your chosen field. A chance to stand out in the crowd!
What to write about?
You’re telling admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college. It’s important to remember you can only write one personal statement – it’s the same for each course you apply for. So, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name. If you’ve chosen similar subjects, talk about the subject in general, and try not to mention courses titles. If you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, just write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.
A few tips to stand out:
Make it relevant – remember: there’s a character limit (you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines). Don’t waste space on details that have no relevance to your chosen course and career path.
Show how you’re unique – through your own examples, independent research, and personality. Present a good balance of academic and extra-curricular credentials – but don’t feel like you have to include hobbies if you don’t have any.
Make it engaging (whilst avoiding clichés) – lines like ‘I was born to be a dancer’ are definitely not unique, and generic clichés like this might risk mildly irritating the admissions tutor.
Think outside the box – let’s face it, no one wants to read through thousands of English students talk about how Shakespeare opened their eyes to poetry. Avoid the obvious, and think laterally.
- Have a strong introduction, remember the aim of introduction is to keep the reader interested and keen to continue reading.
- Talk mainly in 1st person narrative.
- Show your interest and enthusiasm for the subject beyond curriculum.
- Be specific about what has motivated you to choose that subject. Have you attended any talks, read books or watch documentaries?
- Give details rather than just mentioning them, i.e "I am fascinated by Brian Cox documentaries on the origin of universe and the possibility of existence of life on other parts of Solar system."
- Explicitly link an activity with specific generic skills. Leave it to the reader to be judge of how that activity has enhanced your skills, through the way you have detailed the activity. “Having been part of cricket team throughout secondary school, has made me realise the importance of team work is generally”, no, you just have an idea why teamwork is important, not "generally"!!
- Emphasize on the significance of your subject by having a 3rd person observation/cliche in your introduction. “ The issue of plastic in oceans wouldn't have been taken seriously if it wasn't for Planet Blue and similar TV watch documentaries”
- Use conversational language, stay formal.
- Use overly emotional / overenthusiastic language.
- Give A-level subject marks as they will be included in the references that school provides.
- Talk about A-level courses in details (it's ok if you touch upon your preference e.g “you prefer theoretical over applied physics or other way around”).
- Talk about irrelevant part jobs you had during summer/weekends. “a part time job at a catering company helped with boosting my confidence, enhanced my skills in interacting with people and performing well under stressful situations”
Any question, please get in touch
Still unsure which degree is best for you? This might help
Which degree should I do
How to choose the right degree?
Choosing the right degree can be a difficult decision.
With so many undergraduate courses to choose from, finding the right degree can be a long process – so make a start by narrowing down your options…
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the thousands of degrees on offer to students in the UK. Add to this the fact that applicants can pick up to five related courses to improve their chances of being accepted into university, and you’ll see that choosing the right degree is no simple task.
If you are still undecided which degree is best for you, these five questions will reveal which degree you could study.
Your choices could reveal a degree programme that you never considered before…
A-level & GCSE Results 2018