Updated on 13 October 2021
While exams are due to go ahead this summer, there are some changes to normal procedure. Get to grips with the plans for summer 2022 and how assessment will look different from The Key for School Leaders (opens in a new window)
GCSEs, AS and A-levels
The following information is from the DfE's proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A-levels in 2022 (opens in a new window), unless otherwise stated.
Subjects will include advanced information or optional content
The following GCSE subjects will have optional topics or content:
- english literature
- ancient history
The optional content will not be assessed by exam boards.
For all other GCSE, AS and A-level subjects, exam boards will provide advance information about the focus of the content covered in the exams.
This will be provided by 7 February 2022 at the latest. Information may be provided earlier at the DfE’s discretion.
Formulae and equation sheets will be provided
Pupils taking the following GCSE subjects will be given sheets with all the necessary formulae and equations as part of the exam:
- mathematics (formulae)
- physics (equations)
- combined science (equations)
There’s a reduced need for practical work in science subjects
Hands-on practical activities are still allowed and encouraged, but this requirement can be covered by demonstration if necessary for the following subjects:
- GCSE: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Combined science, Geology, Astronomy
- AS-level: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Combined science, Geology, Environmental science
- A-level: Environmental science
You can assess the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required for A-level biology, chemistry, physics and geology (rather than students being required to complete at least 12 practical activities as required by the DfE subject content).
Exam boards can monitor the CPAC remotely.
No set task for art and design
The student’s portfolio alone will determine their grade for GCSE, AS and A-level.
Grade boundaries will take the pandemic into account
For summer 2022 exams, grade boundaries will be “based on a profile that reflects a midpoint between 2021 and pre-pandemic grading”.
Teachers should continue to use the 2019 standards when predicting grades for UCAS.
This is explained in Ofqual’s approach to grading exam and assessments (opens in a new window).
Contingency arrangements for summer 2022 are currently following a consultation. The documents are available from GOV.UK Contingency arrangements: GCSE, AS, A level, Project and AEA (opens in a new window).
Vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) and other general qualifications
Teacher assessed grades (TAGs) shouldn’t be needed this year
During the pandemic, some VTQs were assessed based on teacher assessed grades (TAGs).
Exams and assessments are expected to take place for all qualifications in 2021/22, and TAGs won’t be accepted as an alternate means of assessment.
This is explained in guidance on the arrangements for the assessment and awarding of VTQs: 2021 to 2022 (opens in a new window).
Advanced notice of exam content
Examination bodies for some VTQs (e.g. linear qualifications with exams at the end of the year) will publish advance information about the focus of the exam content. This means teachers can focus the rest of their teaching time to ensure the exam content is covered.
Advance information will be published no later than 28 February 2022, but may be earlier (see contingencies below).
This is explained on page 6 of the DfE’s guidance on contingencies for 2021/22 (opens in a new window).
Changes to examination or assessment format
Depending on the qualification, the exam board may make changes to the usual means of assessment. This is in response to the missed learning caused by the pandemic.
These changes will depend on individual qualifications and exam boards, but may include:
- fewer internal assessments, while ensuring all content is taught
- fewer hours of work experience or work placements
- longer and more assessment windows
- social distancing adaptations (e.g. professional discussion instead of practical activities)
- greater flexibility in invigilation rules (e.g. letting subject teachers invigilate their own subject)
This is explained on page 4 of the DfE’s guidance on contingencies for 2021/22, linked above.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may affect the ability to hold exams in summer 2022.
Depending on how the pandemic affects education during the 2021/22 academic year, the DfE may decide to do any of the following:
- bring forward the date by which exam boards provide advance information (see above)
- cancel exams and use TAGs instead for:
- qualifications that are most similar to GCSEs, AS and A-levels
- VTQs used for mixed purposes (e.g. Functional Skills, ESOL Skills for life)
- delay exams and assessments (where TAGs wouldn’t be appropriate)
Ofqual and the DfE are currently consulting on the best use of TAGs. If TAGs are required in place of exams in summer 2022, this may look different to how they were done in summer 2021.
When more information is released about improved TAGs, we’ll update this article with the latest guidance. Click 'save for later' in the top right-hand corner to be notified when this happens.
See more details about these possible contingency plans in DfE’s guidance on contingencies for 2021/22 (opens in a new window).
Supporting Year 11 students with mock exams
We have put together an information leaflet to help support parents, carers and students through mock exams including organising your time, memory and revision and retrieval practice.