Examination time – with a difference

It has been a very challenging time for all students in secondary education but those whose external exams have been cancelled have had to contend with more uncertainty than seems fair. Year 11 and 13 students have a challenging term ahead of them once the Easter break is over as they face a series of assessments to determine their final grades.

After last year’s chaos, the good news is that the algorithm chaos of last year has been avoided. Instead the situation for 2021 is that schools can determine grades by using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays. In essence then, the grading system for this year is built around teachers’ judgements.

In the vast majority of cases, year 11 and 13 students will sit some internal examinations that are abridged versions of the external papers, mainly because the protracted period away from school has had such an impact on how much of the syllabus it has been possible to cover. In one sense, this should help students maintain a sharp focus over the coming weeks as they revise specific areas of course content over a more protracted assessment period.

At both GCSE and A level in English Language and English Literature, students I tutor are faced with broadly similar requirements in their schools and colleges. The vast majority of GCSE students will sit only one full paper for both Language and Literature. A level students are generally looking at 3 or 4 essays over two papers, depending on the content covered at each institution.

To maintain the students’ focus throughout the term, most schools and colleges are following up the internal examinations with a series of test assignments which can also be used to determine the final grade.

Grades for A level and GCSE students will be published in August, a little earlier than usual to allow time for appeal.  

To all of you who have worked so hard and handled this very testing year commendably, the very best of luck. The future is yours to take!