Exams in 2021 – how will I be assessed?

GCSE and A level exams in 2021

Information for students studying GCSEs and A levels in 2021

It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for schools and in particular anyone taking exams. If that includes you, you’ll be well aware that there are no formal exams this year, and your work will be marked using teacher assessment grades (TAGs) instead. Here’s how it works and what that means for you.

What is a teacher assessment grade (TAG)?

Although formal GCSE and A-Levels have been cancelled, chances are, you’ve had to sit mocks or mini classed-based tests and submit coursework for the subjects you’re doing. Your teachers will assess the work and tests you’ve completed and use those results to give you a TAG. Teachers must also let you know what work is being used as evidence.

The government hasn’t set any specific assessment model and it’s up to schools to determine how they will carry out the process of awarding TAGs. However, exam boards have issued guidance and outlined grade descriptions in addition to providing example answers. With that in mind, teachers and schools know what’s expected and must provide robust evidence for the GCSE and A-Level grades they award.

It does of course mean a significant increase in teacher workload, not just because of marking more tests and coursework, but because of all the extra admin too.  

All schools will already have submitted their grades as the cut off was 18 June. Results day for A-Levels will be 10 August 2021, and 12 August 2021 for GCSEs.

How secure will my exam grades be?

Teachers are under a huge amount of pressure this year – perhaps more so than last year, as scrutiny will now be on the outcomes of TAGs. Teachers will also have spent painstaking hours factoring in all the evidence to make sure their assessment grades reflect your work.

Bear in mind that because there is no prescribed method of assessment, nothing is standardised between schools or between different parts of the country. In some ways that’s a positive as teachers will be able to use any work that’s been marked to help them in their decision.

The media has also reported that teacher led assessments could lead to slightly inflated grades. Partly because your teachers will look for the best in everything you’ve done and also due to the sheer amount of pressure and administration around the task.

If you’re worried about grade security, the reality is, no system of exam grading is 100% secure. Under the current circumstances, teacher assessment grades represent the fairest method of marking for all students. Even pre-Covid, the system played to the talents of some but not of everyone. After all, not everyone performs well in formal exams either through nerves or simply because they slept badly the night before. Plus, with multiple exam boards, there’s no standardised set of questions and grades can vary depending on the individual mark scheme and the exam marker.

Can I appeal my exam grades?

Yes, if you’re not happy with your mark, you can challenge the result after you receive them. You should be clear about the grounds of appeal and why you think you’ve received the wrong grade.

To make an appeal, you’ll need to speak to your school in the first instance and ask for a review. This will be an internal process done by your school or college. They’ll check for mistakes and consider the points you’ve raised in your appeal.

If you’re not happy with your school’s review, you can take your appeal to the exam board who will review your case. Don’t forget that your mark can be revised up or down or stay the same and any decision by the examining board will be final.

It’s also vital to know that when you lodge an appeal, you cannot withdraw it. Another key point is that if your exam grade is lowered on appeal, you cannot revert back to the previous, higher grade.

If you want to appeal your A-Level grades, you must do this by the 16 August using the priority appeals route. Other appeals are classed as non-priority appeals and you have until 3 September to make one.

You can find out more about the TAG process and what to do if you want to appeal at these websites:

Looking forward

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all our lives. We extend real sympathy to all students, parents and teachers who are all doing their very best to make this system work fairly, in what is an impossible and unprecedented situation for us all.

Remember that if you decide to re-sit any of your exams in the autumn and need a little extra coaching in the run up, we can help. At The Community Schools, we offer a range of tutoring options – online, face to face and summer courses too.

All our tutors have classroom experience and have the knowledge and skills to tailor sessions that enable you to fulfil your potential. For more information about what we offer, here are some frequently asked questions or why not call us on 07747 037441 or send us a message using our contact form.