• Why are exams cancelled?
  • How will pupils be graded?
  • Can pupils sit exams at another time?
  • What about coursework?
  • What about private candidates?
  • Will higher education providers accept calculated grades?
  • Will employers accept calculated grades?
  • What’s next?
  • Bibliography


Why are exams cancelled?

help minimise the spread of coronavirus, the government decided to partially close all schools from Friday 20 March 2020 until further notice. Schools are open only for pupils classed as vulnerable and the children of key workers.

The pandemic is expected to significantly impact the UK for at least the next few months. For this reason, the government also decided to cancel all of the exams and assessments that were scheduled to take place this . This includes:

  • A-level
  • AS-levels
  • GCSEs
  • SATs
  • The International Baccalaureate

The government’s decision is fixed – exams will not be reinstated if the coronavirus pandemic concludes more quickly than predicted. This provides pupils, parents and teachers with certainty about the situation, and allows schools to focus on supporting the pupils still in attendance.


How will pupils be graded?

The government has been clear in stating that pupils will still receive the grades and/or qualifications they would have received had exams gone ahead. Pupils will be awarded their grades through a calculated grading process, newly created by Ofqual to suit the specific circumstances of this year’s closures and cancellations. Ofqual is working with exam boards and teachers’ representatives to ensure that this process will be consistent, practical and fair to all pupils.

The calculated grading process will take into account a range of evidence from each pupil’s roster of work, which may include the following:

  • Prior attainment
  • Mock exam results
  • Non-exam assessment
  • The school’s past performance
  • Completed coursework
  • Teacher assessment
  • Predicted grades

While predicted grades may be included in the larger body of evidence for this grading process, pupils will not simply be awarded their predicted grade.

Similar methods of grading have been used by exam boards previously – for example, to grade individual pupils who become ill immediately before an exam. Ofqual will be drawing on these instances to develop their grading process for 2020.

The calculated grading process will be standardised across all schools. If a pupil believes that, in their case, the correct process has not been followed, they will be able to appeal.


Can pupils sit exams at another time?

Exam boards will not be issuing papers in any subject for this year’s GCSEs, AS- and A-levels, so pupils will not be able to sit their scheduled exams this Summer, neither at school nor any other centre. This includes and assessments for vocational and technical qualifications. All pupils will instead be awarded their grades through the calculated grading process created by Ofqual.

If a pupil believes that their awarded grade does not accurately reflect their performance, they will be given the option to sit an exam as soon as reasonably possible after schools are reopened. This is likely to be in the Autumn term of the 2020/2021 academic year.

Pupils will also be given the option to sit their exams in Summer 2021.

If a pupil decides to sit an exam and achieves lower than their previously awarded grade, it is not yet clear which grade they will be formally awarded – their grade from the exam, or the higher grade of the two.


What about coursework?

Some pupils may have coursework that is only partially completed. Exam boards will be issuing schools with advice regarding the completion of coursework shortly.

All coursework, complete and incomplete, can be used as evidence in the calculated grading process. This includes modules and non-exam assessments in vocational and technical qualifications.


What about private candidates?

The government is currently working with Ofqual to explore options for awarding grades to private candidates, including home-schooled pupils.


Will higher education providers accept calculated grades?

The grades and qualifications issued through the calculated grading process will have the same status as those achieved through exams and assessments. Sixth forms, colleges, and universities should, therefore, treat these grades the same as regularly issued grades.

Universities UK has stated that universities will be flexible and pragmatic to ensure that pupils are able to progress to higher education. They have also assured that universities will accept pupils who decide to sit exams when schools reopen, allowing these pupils to begin their courses at a delayed start date. Pupils wishing to take this option should speak to their universities after receiving their calculated grades.

The usual university admissions cycle should continue as normal. Universities should not make new unconditional offers because of the new circumstances, and pupils should not feel pressured to accept such offers should they arise. Any offers already made by universities, unconditional or otherwise, still stand.


Will employers accept calculated grades?

As with higher education providers, employers should treat the calculated grades as formal grades. If pupils have any concerns about going into confirmed jobs or apprenticeships, they should contact their individual employers.


What’s next?

TheSchoolBus has created a resource pack to help schools manage the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The pack includes letter templates, a risk assessment and more guidance, and can be accessed here.

You can also add The Latest Coronavirus Updates for Schools to your ‘Watch list’ to be notified when we update the article with new information about the .




DfE (2020) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): cancellation of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020> [Accessed: 24 March 2020]