Ofqual confirms exam arrangements are back to normal in 2023

GCSE, AS, and A level exams in England will largely return to pre-pandemic arrangements next summer, Ofqual has confirmed.

To protect students against the disruption of recent years, and in case students’ performance is slightly lower than before the pandemic, senior examiners will use the grades achieved by previous cohorts of pupils, along with prior attainment data, to inform their decisions about where to set grade boundaries.

This mirrors the approach used in the first years of reformed GCSEs and A levels in 2017, when early cohorts were protected against the impact of changes to the qualifications and means, for example, a typical A level student who would have achieved a grade A before the pandemic will be just as likely to get an A this summer.

The government is also confirming that students should continue to be provided with support in GCSE mathematics, physics and combined science with formulae and equation sheets, but not with advance information of exam content, as was the case last year.

The decisions reflect the reduced levels of disruption this cohort have experienced compared to the cohorts of the previous two years. Ofqual has launched a consultation on the plans for formulae and equation sheets today.

Chief Regulator, Dr Jo Saxton said: "This summer was an important step back towards normality. Our plans for 2023 take us a step further, whilst also recognising the impact of Covid.

"I’ve visited schools and colleges up and down the country and I’ve seen young people’s admirable resilience and dedication. Giving the 2023 cohort some protection against any impact of Covid disruption is the right thing to do. Our approach to grading in 2023 will provide a soft landing for students as we continue the process of taking the exam system back to normal."

Ofqual already announced earlier this year that pre-pandemic arrangements for non-exam assessment, fieldwork and practical science have been reinstated. The department confirmed at the same time that schools and colleges this year will be teaching the full content of qualifications to students taking exams in 2023.

Arrangements for vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) and other general qualifications were confirmed in May 2022.

Ofqual does not expect any further adaptations to be used in VTQs. Awarding organisations are expected to take account of the approach, including in relation to grading, used in general qualifications so that students taking VTQs are not advantaged or disadvantaged in comparison.