Consultation outcome

Proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022

This consultation has concluded

Download the full outcome

Detail of outcome

In summary, these decisions mean that for summer 2022:

  1. There will be optional topics and content in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography. Ofqual will require exam boards to change how they assess these subjects to reflect the expected changes to the way the subject content is assessed, as proposed in the consultation.
  2. Centres will be allowed to deliver practical work in GCSE biology, chemistry, physics, combined science, geology and astronomy, AS level biology, chemistry, physics and geology, and AS and A level environmental science by demonstration. We would encourage centres to continue to make available hands-on practical activities for their students wherever possible. This does not require changes to the assessment arrangements that the exam boards have in place for each of these specifications.
  3. Centres will be allowed to assess the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required to enable students to demonstrate their competence in A level biology, chemistry, physics and geology.
  4. Exam boards can carry out remote monitoring of centres’ application of the CPAC.
  5. Students taking GCSE, AS and A level art and design will be assessed on their portfolio only.
  6. Exam boards will provide advance information about the focus of the content of the exams for all GCSE, AS and A level subjects (except GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography) for the summer 2022 exams. The advance information will meet the principles set out in the consultation document.
  7. The policy intention of providing advance information is that it will support students’ revision. Therefore, the DfE has confirmed that advance information will be provided by 7 February 2022 at the latest. This will enable teachers to plan to adapt their teaching in the second half of the spring term if necessary. DfE has also decided to retain the flexibility for advance information to be deployed at other points ahead of 7 February 2022 if circumstances require. At least a week’s notice will be given if it is decided that advance information will be released earlier than 7 February 2022.
  8. Students will be given a formulae sheet for GCSE mathematics in summer 2022. Exam boards will provide copies of the formulae sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the formulae sheet will be provided in the exams.
  9. Students will be given a revised equation sheet for GCSE physics and combined science in summer 2022, covering all the equations required in the subject content. Exam boards will provide copies of the equation sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the equation sheet will be provided in the exams.

Feedback received

Detail of feedback received

The consultation was available online for 21 days and received 6,725 responses. It gathered views on the following proposals:

  • choice of topics in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and choice of content in GCSE geography
  • changes to the requirements for the delivery of practical activities in science subjects, and assessment in art and design
  • the provision of advance information on the focus of the content of exams, in the majority of subjects at GCSE, AS and A level
  • the provision of support materials in GCSE mathematics, physics and combined science exams

Several themes were suggested by respondents across multiple questions. To avoid duplicating analysis, these themes are summarised below.

First, many respondents emphasised that proposed changes to summer 2022 exams and assessments needed to be announced as soon as possible to provide staff sufficient time to plan (adjusting curriculums and mock exam materials and so on). Reasons provided by respondents included the fact that last-minute announcements would increase workloads and place additional pressure on students and teachers. In addition, respondents mentioned that earlier announcements would allow students more time to familiarise themselves with additional materials (such as revised equation sheets).

Second, some respondents noted the variation in students’ experiences regarding remote learning over the past two years, with some schools and colleges facing more frequent lockdowns and self-isolation events than others, and that this should be taken into account in any proposed change. Similarly, respondents brought up the concept of a “level playing field” for students and expressed concerns over proposals where, in their opinion, some students or schools and colleges may be disadvantaged relative to others.

Third, respondents suggested several modifications for exams, including lengthening the time students had to complete the exam, dividing exams into shorter papers, allowing students to choose topics to respond to on the day of the exam or reducing the number of exam papers students had to complete. In particular, some respondents stated they had faced difficulties in covering the specification during remote learning, and reducing the number of exam papers or allowing students to choose topics would reduce pressure on students caused by missed learning time. Respondents also mentioned that the subject content across many GCSE, AS and A level subjects should be reduced.

Fourth, some respondents expressed concern that the DfE and Ofqual’s proposed changes were limited to a specific set of qualifications, in particular the absence of modifications to A Level subjects compared to equivalent GCSE subjects.

Fifth, many respondents generally agreed with proposals to carry over changes proposed in previous consultations in 2020 and 2021, as consistency would reduce the amount of time teachers and other staff would need to prepare for the upcoming year.

Sixth, a number of respondents who disagreed with proposals on choice of topic/content or advance information believed that these proposals would lead to grade inflation for certain students. Because these proposals would narrow the focus of exams (compared to the full specification), in their view the proposals would advantage students with resources for external tutors. As a result, proposals to provide choice of topic/content or advance information would make it difficult to differentiate between “good” and “excellent” students.

Finally, a small proportion of respondents across all respondent types called for exams to be cancelled and students to be assigned teacher assessed grades (as in summer 2021). Alternatively, respondents proposed that no modifications be made to exams and assessments in summer 2022 (compared to before the pandemic) and instead grade boundaries should be adjusted to account for varying difficulties of exams due to lost learning time.

Original consultation

Summary

A joint consultation published by Ofqual and the Department for Education on proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022.

This consultation ran from
to

Consultation description

This joint consultation by the Department for Education and Ofqual invites your views on proposed adaptations to the assessment of GCSEs and GCE AS and A levels for students in England taking exams in summer 2022. A separate but related consultation on proposed changes to assessments for vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in the 2021 to 2022 academic year is taking place.

These proposals are made in the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has disrupted education during the current (2020 to 2021) and previous (2019 to 2020) academic years. This consultation covers the arrangements for exams and assessments to be taken in summer 2022 in light of this disruption and uncertainty about the continuing impact of the pandemic over the coming academic year.

The proposals take account of the responses Ofqual received to its consultations on qualifications in July and December 2020, as well as more recent discussions with stakeholders. The proposals are in addition to the changes to non-exam assessment (NEA) and fieldwork requirements for summer 2022 which were confirmed by Ofqual on 16 June following consultation.

This consultation proposes a package of measures to help mitigate the impact of disruption to students’ education, and seeks views on proposals on the following areas:

  • choice of topics in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and choice of content in GCSE geography
  • changes to the requirements for the delivery of practical activities in science subjects, and assessment in art and design
  • the provision of advance information on the focus of the content of exams, in the majority of subjects at GCSE, AS and A level
  • the provision of support materials in GCSE mathematics, physics and combined science exams

Documents

Published 12 July 2021
Last updated 30 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Outcome and analysis documents added to conclude this consultation.

  2. First published.