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This briefing provides background on school and college exams and assessments in summer 2022. It covers adaptions to assessments, what happens in cases of absence, grading, and appeals. It also provides historical background on qualifications and awarding in 2020 and 2021, when exams were cancelled owing to coronavirus.

Summer GCSE, AS and A Level exams took place in 2022

In 2020 and 2021, the main summer series of exams for GCSEs, AS and A Levels (and their equivalents in Scotland) were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, students received grades based on teacher or lecturer assessment. Summer 2022 sees the return of a full exam series in all four UK nations.

2022 grades will be more generous than pre-pandemic ones, but ‘grade inflation’ is being rolled back

In 2020 and 2021 grades awarded via teacher and lecturer assessment were significantly higher, overall, than they had been in 2019.

For England, regulator Ofqual has announced that grading in 2022 will again be more generous than it was pre-pandemic, but that grades are expected to fall at a mid-point between those in 2019 and 2021. In future, the plan is for grades to revert to a more normal distribution. As such, 2022 has been described as a ‘transition year’. 

There are other changes to exams

In England, there are more changes to exams in 2022, including advance information on exam topics, greater choice of topics in some subjects, and formula and equation sheets for some subjects with a maths component.

Similar changes to grade boundaries and the form and content of exams apply across the UK.

How fair are exams in 2022, given lost face-to-face learning?

Students in exam years have missed significant periods of face-to-face learning, and some remain concerned that the adaptions and allowances don’t go far enough to compensate.

GCSE, A Level, Higher/ Advanced Higher grades (in Scotland), and equivalent qualifications, are high stakes in that they serve as a passport to further and higher education, training and employment.

Some education organisations are concerned about the potential backlash if 2022 grades are markedly less generous than in 2020 and 2021.

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