Summer 2018 exams successfully delivered despite major reforms

Ofqual has published its review of GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2018, providing an overview of the exam boards’ planning, administration and marking, along with a summary of the awarding process and what happened post-results.

2018 was the biggest year of reform, and most exams taken this summer were in reformed qualifications.

The report concluded that the 2018 summer series was successful, well planned, and effectively delivered. In recent years, exam results have been stable, and this trend continued. Variability in school and college results this summer was similar to previous years, suggesting that teachers and students responded well to the considerable reforms.

The majority of entries in 2018 were for reformed qualifications. Entries for GCSEs and A levels remained broadly stable. In line with recent trends, entries for AS subjects fell by almost 60% from 659,880 in 2017 to 269,090 in 2018. This is largely because new AS qualifications are stand-alone qualifications in England (meaning students do not have to take an AS as part of a reformed A level).

During the exam series, 14.7 million scripts were generated by 1.3 million students. As in previous years, the vast majority of exam papers were error free. Where errors did occur, none was sufficiently serious to have had a significant impact on students. There were fewer security breaches and incidents of malpractice, reflecting work undertaken by exam boards to strengthen procedures.

Chief Regulator, Sally Collier, said: "Against the backdrop of major reform, the 2018 exam series was successfully delivered, with marking completed and results announced on time. Security breaches and incidents of malpractice fell and exam boards better applied our rules around reviews of marking and moderation. We will be working with the exam boards on follow-up actions to drive further improvements in 2019."

The number of GCSE and A level grades challenged and changed fell in 2018 compared to the previous summer, according to official statistics . The data also indicate that nearly two-thirds of reviews resulted in no mark change, an increase from 2017. The reasons given for grade changes when they did occur this year are more consistent with the appropriate application of our rules regarding reviews of marking and reviews of moderation as introduced in 2016.

Official statistics of malpractice in the summer 2018 GCSE, AS and A level series, show there were fewer incidents of malpractice. The number of malpractice penalties issued to students has remained stable since 2017. The main reason for penalties continues to be unauthorised materials – particularly mobile phones - in the examination room.

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