Ofqual: rolling update

Information on qualifications which have been disrupted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Applies to England

Checking exam papers

Thank you to everyone involved in helping exams and formal assessments run smoothly. We’re now in week 2.

Here is a reminder for school leaders, and exams officers new to the position since the last exam series in 2019.

  • JCQ requires 2 people to check every packet of exam papers before opening them
  • both people must double-check the date and time before opening any packet of exam papers as the consequences of giving out the wrong paper can be very serious
  • you will be inspected by the exam boards at least once during the exam timetable

You can read more key exam reminders in our recent blog. You can find more information in relation to paper security in JCQ’s Instructions for conducting examinations and Suspected Malpractice Policies and Procedures.

Hoax offers of 2022 exam papers

Hoaxers are trying to sell fake exam papers on social media. We are advising students not to be distracted by these hoaxes and reminding them that anyone trying to sell or buy such fakes could be disqualified from their qualifications.

Subject content and assessment arrangements: 2022 to 2023

Ofqual and the Department for Education have confirmed the arrangements for subject content in GCSEs, AS and A levels and non-exam assessment in qualifications taking place in the academic year 2022 to 2023.

New guidance for exam boards on producing accessible assessments

Ofqual has published new guidance for exam boards and awarding organisations on making assessments accessible for students.

The guidance supports awarding organisations to design and develop assessments to meet rules on accessibility. It explains that, in their exams and assessments, awarding organisations should:

  • use accessible and appropriate language  
  • use clear and consistent layout 
  • use source material, context, images and colour in ways that do not disadvantage students 
  • consider how Reasonable Adjustments could be made to the exam or assessment to make sure disabled students are not disadvantaged

Guide to exams and assessments in 2022

We have published a guide for students on how GCSEs, A levels, vocational and technical qualifications are graded and awarded this year.

The guide explains what is in place to support you in taking exams and assessments, and provides other information about this year’s arrangements. It is for students taking any of these qualifications:

  • GCSEs
  • AS or A levels
  • other general qualifications, including International Baccalaureate, core mathematics and Pre-U
  • vocational and technical qualifications, including T Levels
  • a combination of these qualifications

For more information, see Ofqual’s student guide to exams and assessments in 2022

Extra support for summer 2022 GCSEs, AS and A levels

The government intends that exams will go ahead in summer 2022, with some changes to exams and non-exam assessments:

  • exams will be graded more generously this year – providing a safety net for students
  • advance information will help students to focus their revision
  • exam boards have provided advance information for exams in most subjects
  • students will have a choice of topics or content in some other GCSE subjects
  • exam boards will provide a formulae sheet and an updated equation sheet that students will have in their GCSE maths, physics and combined science exams

Vocational and technical qualifications 2022

Results for vocational and technical qualifications in 2022 will be based on the outcome of exams and assessments. Awarding organisations will be allowed to make adaptations to assessments and qualifications, where they need to, due to the pandemic.

In early December we updated our guidance on the awarding of vocational and technical qualifications in the academic year 2021 to 2022. The guidance is for schools, colleges and training providers, and includes information on T Levels, Functional Skills Qualifications and Apprenticeship end-point assessments.

For more information see the student guide to exams and assessments in 2022.

Contingency plans in case exams cannot go ahead as planned

The government intends that exams will go ahead in 2022. If exams cannot go ahead as planned, students will receive grades determined by their teachers, using teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) similar to those used in summer 2021. TAGs are based on teachers’ assessment of their students’ work.

For GCSEs, AS and A levels, we have published guidance for schools and colleges on how to collect evidence from their students in the remainder of the academic year, so that this evidence is available in case TAGs are needed. 

Our guidance encourages schools to use their existing assessment plans and not to over-assess students. In many cases, the necessary assessments will already be planned to support students’ learning and help them prepare for summer exams.

Information for teachers on collecting evidence for contingency arrangements

We have received queries from centres as to whether they need to collect evidence, as part of contingency arrangements, into the summer term. The government has been clear that it fully expects exams to go ahead as planned this summer, and does not expect that to change except in the unlikely case of a public health emergency that prevents students being able physically to sit exams. However, the unpredictable path of the pandemic means that it is only right that we continue to have contingency plans in place.   

We published guidance in November 2021 which set out how teachers should collect evidence of students’ work during this academic year. The guidance highlights that centres should take a proportionate approach to gathering evidence of their students’ performance, and guard against over-assessment when collecting it. The guidance states that evidence collected should cover the breadth of content usually seen in the exams and the qualification’s assessment objectives, and is clear that once centres have this evidence, they are not obliged to collect any more. 

While the guidance illustrates that centres might collect one piece of evidence in the summer term, this was an example of how evidence might be collected rather than a requirement. Contingency assessments should ideally be scheduled in a way that supports students with exam preparation. Centres should use their judgement as to whether they have sufficient evidence, whilst also considering the role of any planned assessments in exam preparation.

Private candidates

As we expect exams to take place in 2022, we are encouraging schools, colleges and other exam centres to allow private candidates to register with them in the usual way.

If exams cannot go ahead as planned, private candidates will need to work with a school, college or other exam centre to generate evidence for a teacher-assessed grade. A private candidate could take assessments through the year to produce this evidence. Alternatively, a private candidate could choose to be assessed only if it is decided that exams cannot take place. They would then need to find a school, college or other exam centre to work with, and would be assessed in a more compressed period of time.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published a list of schools, colleges and other exam centres that make exam entries for private candidate for GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022. Schools, colleges and other exam centres that are not in the JCQ list might still make entries for private candidates – they do not need to be included in the list in order to do so.

For vocational and technical qualifications, the Department for Education has published guidance on contingency measures. The contingency arrangements would include:

  • using TAGs for those qualifications most similar to GCSEs and A levels
  • delaying the awarding of qualifications that require students to demonstrate occupational or professional competence

Special consideration for Applied Generals, Tech Awards, Tech Certs and Tech Levels taken in January

We’ve compiled information on policies for special consideration for awarding organisations that delivered January assessments for Applied Generals, Tech Awards, Tech Certs and Tech Levels. Special consideration is used where a student has temporarily experienced an illness or injury, or other event outside their control, which is likely to have adversely affected their ability to demonstrate their knowledge and skills during assessment.

Replacement certificates

Ofqual does not hold copies of your certificates – we can’t tell you your grade or provide replacements. Certificates are held by the exam board you sat your qualification with. If you don’t know which exam board you took your qualification with, ask your school. If your school don’t know you will need to ask each exam board to do a search for you – they will charge you for this.

Contact your exam board to get a replacement certificate. If your exam board no longer exists, your certificates will have moved to an existing board. Find out who now holds your certificates.

Contact your exam board

Anxiety and mental health support

We understand that this has been a difficult time for students and you have shown great resilience in the face of the challenges presented by the pandemic. Always make sure you speak to somebody if you are feeling anxious or struggling with your mental health. This might be a parent, carer or someone else you trust.

You can also contact:

Published 8 July 2021
Last updated 25 May 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added update: "Checking exam papers"

  2. Added an advice note for students on fake exam papers offered on social media.

  3. Added information on plans for subject content and assessment arrangements next academic year, and on new guidance for awarding organisations on making their assessments accessible.

  4. Updated with additional information for teachers on collecting evidence for use in contingency arrangements.

  5. Added in links to this year's student guide to exams and assessments.

  6. Taking out information regarding the autumn series results days for GCSEs and A levels, which have now passed.

  7. Added information about the support measures available to students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels this year.

  8. Added information on special consideration for Applied Generals, Tech Awards, Tech Certs and Tech Levels in England.

  9. Update to the private candidate section which states that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published a list of schools, colleges and other exam centres that will accept private candidate entries for GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022.

  10. Updated reference to autumn GCSE exams, which have finished.

  11. Added information about January assessments for vocational and technical qualifications.

  12. Updated to include a link through to our guidance for schools, colleges and training providers on awarding vocational and technical qualifications in the academic year 2021 to 2022.

  13. Updated to include information on contingency measures should exams and assessments not go ahead in 2022.

  14. Removing guidance on submitting appeals for GCSEs and A levels as the appeal deadline has passed.

  15. Removed the table advising the dates of results days.

  16. Added note about legal advice being unnecessary when appealing qualification results.

  17. Added links to additional guides about appealing GCSE, AS and A level results and added information about consultations on arrangements for qualifications awarded in 2022.

  18. Added details of 2 consultations for how exams should take place for the next academic year (2021 to 2022).

  19. First published.