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The Exam Situation

As of Jan 2021

With ongoing disruption to education across the globe, there is still much confusion about what will happen to the external exams such as IB, A Levels and GCSE’s. Whilst the UK has definitively cancelled these exams and is consulting on what measures to put in place to assess children in these unusual times, the picture is even less clear with International exams. Our Head of Operations, James Alexander summarises the current situation for students studying in the UK and internationally.

For further information about the current exam situation, please contact Carfax on +97144385276 or email


Although exact details have not yet been released after cancellation of GCSE and A-Levels (and other UK equivalents), there is enough information now available to see how pupils could be assessed this summer.

The prime focus is on a combination of teacher assessed grades and internally assessed exams. With discussions focussed on a staggered reopening of schools from the middle of February onwards, although many will not restart until after the Spring break, Coursework this should leave enough time for teachers to assess evidence, in a fair and open way, so they can measure the standard at which students are performing.

This may potentially include some form of internally administered and marked exams. These examinations will have a safety net; schools will have control over the topics examined, allowing them to select topics which students have covered and disregard those which have not been taught as a result of lockdowns.

It has been decided that the fairest approach is to assess as late as possible in the academic year, to allow students the maximum amount of time for completing their learning and revising before being tested. Grading of these internal examinations will also have aspects of previous mocks and coursework, however, these will carry significantly less weight than last year.

The question still arises ‘what if students are sick or isolating on examination dates?” In these cases, alternative arrangements can be made, for example exams can be taken at home.

ternal Examinations in May/June (with sickness and lockdown safety nets)

Approach if students go back after February half term or Easter:

However, if disruptions continue on into the summer term then these measures will be adjusted. Exams remain the preferred option for schools, however limited they will be because of the impact of covid and learning loss. In this scenario the weighting of coursework and mocks will increase (and potentially be the entirety of the grade depending on the level of disruption).

As yet there is no confirmation on how this will impact on each subject and it is as likely this will be decided independently by teachers and will vary from subject to subject owing to their specifications.

Approach if students have a disrupted summer term:

(Further updates are expected following the end of the consultation between OFQUAL and the Ministry for Education.

Schools are preparing for all eventualities, learning from the previous year and with a longer lead time for working towards a solution to find the fairest way to provide results.

Many schools have not ruled out the idea of March mocks, as such it is sensible to maintain revision throughout lockdown. However, the outlook that internal examinations are taking place in May/June would be the main source of assessment.

International Exams

Both on the international stage and in the UK the situation with international exams is more complex.

Currently, private sector schools providing international examinations, and examinations taking place is countries other than the UK, are set to go ahead (however this is at the discretion of each school) for IGCSE, IAL, and IB examinations.

Although the international exam boards may reside in the UK, these exam boards are still able to provide examinations to schools across the world regardless of the situation in the UK. Independent schools can register their students for any examination board, even those that are not regulated by OFQUAL. This means that, although the government may tell schools to shut during lockdowns, they can not regulate which examination boards they choose to enter their students for, so cannot fully cancel examinations.

The argument for the UK's position on exam cancellation relies on fairness, and not on the safety of schools. With many schools shut and students and teachers falling sick, this creates an uneven 'playing field'. There is still a possibility the international examinations will follow suit and cancel. The difficulty lies in cancelling examinations for students in countries where schools have been back for the entire academic year, just because those in countries that have been worse off have missed school.

Oxford AQA announced this weekend that they would be cancelling their summer exams for international centres. Other boards still have to announce their intentions as do IB. We will continue to update our site with any further relevant information as it is published.

For education advice and guidance, please contact Carfax Consultants at


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