Download the full outcome
Detail of outcome
Because the use of calculators in exams affects the validity of exams, we have decided we will introduce rules governing the use of calculators in new GCSEs, AS and A levels.
We have made significant changes to our proposals to reflect consultation feedback:
- To address concerns about transparency, exam boards will be required to publish their approach to use of calculators in exams, making clear any restrictions on calculator use
- In the light of this decision, and the concerns raised about potential regulatory burden, exam boards will not be required to set out their approach to use of calculators in their assessment strategy for every qualification. However, exam boards may wish to include information about their approach to calculator use in assessment strategies where it plays an important role in securing validity.
We have also made a number of changes to simplify the drafting of the Condition, and to ensure it focuses on the outcome exam boards must achieve – assessments that are fit for purpose – rather than the process they might use to achieve that outcome. This intentionally gives exam boards flexibility to adopt different approaches to calculator use that reflect both subject-specific risks of calculator use, and their chosen approach to assessment.
We have also decided to confirm our proposal to withdraw the current subject-specific rules on calculator use in the new maths GCSEs, because they are no longer required.
Our decisions mean that:
- exam boards will need to comply with our new rules for all new GCSEs, AS and A levels which allow students to use calculators in exams
- exam boards will not need change their approach to calculator use in any of subjects we have already accredited (including GCSE maths), although they can do so if they wish
Alongside this document, we have published revised versions of our:
Detail of feedback received
There were 43 responses to the consultation – 26 from individuals, and 17 from organisations.
The majority of respondents supported our proposed approach, noting that it rightly places the onus on exam boards to ensure their qualifications are valid.
However, some respondents raised concerns about our proposals, in particular:
- a perceived lack of transparency compared to current arrangements, and a perceived reduction in the scope for public and subject expert scrutiny of exam boards’ approaches
- the particular risk that calculators could compromise the validity of exams in subjects such as mathematics and statistics
- the scope for certain calculator functions – such as communication with the internet and computer algebra systems – to undermine the integrity of exams.
This document sets out proposed new rules for the use of calculators in new GCSEs, AS and A levels.
We are proposing to put in place rules which require exam boards to ensure that – if students use calculators in exams – the assessments remain fit for purpose.
These rules would replace our published subject-specific rules for new GCSEs in mathematics, and also cover all other subjects at GCSE, AS and A level where students can use calculators in exams.