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Examination re-sits and appeals process

17 August 2020
Backs of students sitting exams in a hall

We have some helpful guidance for students and parents, and schools and colleges, on examination re-sits and appeals process.

Student guide to summer results and autumn exams

Ofqual have confirmed that you cannot appeal against your centre assessed grades (or centre ranking) if you think you could have done better by sitting your exams, as any appeal would have to be undertaken by someone better placed than your teachers to judge your likely grade if exams had taken place. In the unique circumstances of this summer, Ofqual do not believe there is any such person.

Only your school or college can submit an appeal on your behalf:

  • You can ask your school or college to check whether it made an error when submitting your centre assessment grade or your position in the rank order. If your school or college does think it made a mistake, it can submit an appeal to the exam board, but it must be supported by clear evidence that an error had been made
  • Your school or college can appeal to an exam board on your behalf if it believes the exam board used the wrong data when calculating grades or incorrectly communicated the grades calculated. You should discuss this with your school or college
  • Your school or college can appeal if it believes the historical data used for standardisation was not a reliable basis for predicting its 2020 results. This might include situations where:
  • there’s been a substantial change in the demographic make-up of the centre, for example if a single-gender school has changed to co-educational, or
  • where a school or college experienced a monumental event one year (such as flooding or fire which meant students had to re-locate) which affected one year’s results in the historical data used in the model, or
  • where a school or college has evidence that results this year were likely to show a very different pattern of grades to results in previous years, including where a school or college is concerned about the way the statistical model could affect individual high-ability students who might be expected to receive results that are out of line with the school or college’s historical results
  • It may be possible for the school to appeal on your behalf if your calculated result is lower than a valid mock examination

If your school or college won’t submit an appeal to the exam board on your behalf, or if you or others have concerns about bias, discrimination or any other factor that suggests that your school or college did not behave with care or integrity when determining the centre assessment grade and/or rank order information, it must have a process in place for you to ask for a review of that decision or make a complaint.  You should first raise this with your school or college.

Ofqual has published guidance for students on understanding their grades this summer and what you can do next. They have also published information for students about grounds for appeal and potential malpractice.

The Exam Results Helpline can provide information on appeals, complaints, or what your next steps may be once you’ve received your results. Telephone 0800 100 900 or visit nationalcareers.service.gov.uk

Here are some answers to some common questions.

Can I re-sit the exams if I don't like my results?

Yes, sitting them is an option this autumn or next summer.

Who will be responsible for sorting out any Autumn exams I would like to take?

This will depend on what the subject is.

GCSE English language or mathematics

If you received above a grade 3, you will need to talk to your post-16 course provider, if different from your current school, as they will be responsible for your English and/or mathematics tuition and exam entry.

If you received a grade 3 or below this summer, you must ask your current school or college to enter you.

All other subjects

For all other GCSE and A level entries you must ask your current school or college to enter you. The exam board deadlines for GCSE entries (not English or mathematics) is 18 September, and 4 September for A levels, but your school will tell you about their deadlines for entries (GCSE English language and mathematics entry deadlines are 4 October). You can read more about the autumn exam dates further down the page.

What are the Autumn exam dates and process?

  • AS & A levels on the 5 to 23 October
  • GCSEs on the 2 to 23 November

These exams will be of the same structure and format as previous exams except there will be no non-exam assessment included, such as coursework. For example, in subjects like art and design, grades will be based on a new task, set and marked by the exam board, under the normal supervised conditions.

If you achieve a different grade in the exams, you will be able to use whichever is higher (of the summer or autumn grades) when applying for college, university or jobs. These new results will be based on exam performance alone. There will be no non-exam assessment and results from previous non-exam assessments will not count.

You can choose to take as many subjects in the autumn as you want to. But if you want to take a particular subject, you will need to take all the exam papers in that subject.

Only students whose summer 2020 exams were cancelled can sit exams this autumn. If you are a private candidate, please contact your centre for clarification of arrangements.

For many technical and vocational exams there are several assessment dates throughout the year, so re-sits are likely to be less of a problem. Please contact your school or college for details of deadlines for entries and suitable times for assessment this year.

Can I still go to university/college/school sixth form with my results?

Yes. Your results this year are as equally valid as any other previous year. Everybody is aware of the circumstances this year and has been asked to think flexibly to support learners. You should contact your school, college or university to discuss your individual circumstances to try and reach an outcome. Your school will have people in place to provide you with support and guidance on results day and the days following.

Things to remember

  • Always speak to someone if you are feeling anxious about your results
  • If your results aren’t what you were expecting, speak to your school or college

Information for schools and colleges

Confirmation of full arrangements for appeals this year, published 6 August 2020. The deadline for appeals to be submitted to exam boards is 17 September 2020. The JCQ has published a candidate consent form on their website and a booklet, '‘A guide to the awarding bodies’ appeals processes June 2020’ is available from the JCQ website.

GOV.UK's news article Triple lock for students ahead of A level and GCSE results states that the DfE have now asked Ofqual to determine how and when valid mock results can be used to calculate grades as part of the appeals process so that students could receive the higher result out of their calculated grade, valid mock grade or autumn exam grade. Ofqual have responded and further details will come out at the beginning of next week.

DfE updated School and college responsibility for autumn exams guidance.

“The DfE Exam Support Service will launch at the beginning of the autumn term and will help schools and colleges to book sites and invigilators where required. Schools and colleges will also be able to claim funding through the service if their autumn fees exceed any fee savings that awarding organisations are returning to them, following cancellation of summer exams. We expect schools and colleges to pay fees for all students who were due to sit exams in the summer, rather than passing the cost on to students or their families.”

Unless a grade 3 or below in English or mathematics and they are going to a new post 16 provider.

The exam boards have now confirmed their processes and fees for appeals including what information they will provide free of charge to help inform whether an appeal should be considered:

They have also been confirming fees for the autumn series of exams and the rebates for the summer entry fees.

The DfE has urged universities to hold places open for students appealing their A level results and will exempt these students from the student number controls that were introduced this year. Read Minister Donelan's summer admissions letter for more information.

The arrangements that are being proposed will apply to all Ofqual regulated qualifications apart from GCSEs, AS and A levels, and apprenticeship end-point assessments. It is expected that the use of calculated results will not be required as there will be assessment opportunities in 2020/21. Read GOV.UK's Advice on vocational and technical qualifications, and other general qualifications published on 11 August 2020. The advice states:

  • “We are not proposing to withdraw the current version of the ERF (Extended Regulatory Framework for summer 2020) at this time”. They state that this is because there will be learners who have a calculated grade that needs to form a part of their final assessment. More information can be found on the explainer tool. It is only likely to be needed in exceptional circumstances
  • With regard to Vocational and Technical Qualifications (VTQ) it states that due to the varied nature of these qualifications that a single adaptation process would not be possible but there is an expectation that awarding organisations use the same adaptation processes as far as they can. Awarding organisations should be in a position to explain their approach by September 2020
  • Learners who were eligible to receive a calculated result for any assessments they expected to take this summer can carry forward their results into 2020/21 (or later) when they complete their qualifications

You can also read Guidance for teachers, students, parents and carers: Summer 2020 grades for GCSE, AS and A level, Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Award in maths document, updated on 11 August 2020. This includes “After results are issued, and subject to data protection and any other relevant legal considerations, schools and colleges may choose to provide students with their centre assessment grade and/or rank order information. Where centre assessment grades and/or rank order information are given to students, we encourage centres to consider what additional information and guidance they provide so that students understand the context in which their final calculated result has been decided. Subject access requests received after results day should be processed in the usual manner. Guidance on these issues has been published by the ICO, Confederation of School Trusts, ASCL and NEU.”

Read Ofqual's decision on Proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021. In summary, these decisions mean that for summer 2021 exam boards:

  • should change how they assess content in GCSE geography, history and ancient history, as originally proposed
  • should change how they assess GCSE English literature, to allow for some choice in the content to be covered. All students will be assessed on a play by Shakespeare and on 2 of the remaining 3 areas of content: poetry; 19th century novel; or fiction/drama from the British Isles from 1914
  • should not, unless to accommodate subject specific decisions, make greater use of optional questions in exams
  • should remove the requirement for centres to make a declaration to them confirming they provided all students with the opportunity to undertake a mandated number of days of fieldwork in GCSE, AS and A level geography. The non-exam assessment should be retained at A level but the exam boards should consider how they can be flexible in their requirements for the non-exam assessment to use primary data
  • will not be required to change the length, number or format of the exam papers, except as necessary to accommodate specific changes to the exam and assessment arrangements
  • should, for GCSEs in modern foreign languages report the assessment of spoken language as an endorsement alongside the 9 to 1 grade
  • should allow for a range of adjustments to the assessment arrangements in a number of subjects to accommodate potential public health requirements, for example, GCSE food preparation and nutrition, GCSE, AS and A level music and GCSE physical education

What we don’t know yet

  • The timing of the summer 2021 series. A decision on delay has not been made yet
  • The process by which appeals based on a valid mock will be administered