AS and A levels

We know you have many questions about how these qualifications will be assessed in the absence of exams. We’ve produced two graphics explaining the process and a series of FAQs. These Q&As will provide answers to many of the questions you have, and we will add to them as the situation progresses.

          

What is happening with summer exam this year?

Welsh Government announced that schools would be closed after 20 March and therefore the summer exams could not take place. Learners due to sit their AS and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work. Normal arrangements for reporting post-16 performance measures will be suspended for this year.

How will the decision to cancel summer examinations impact me?

The priority is ensuring fairness for learners while following public health advice. Grades for AS and A level qualifications in summer 2020 will be calculated using a range of evidence. In determining how we proceed, the focus will be on what is in the best interests of learners, both in terms of their current well-being and their progress to work, education or training.

What about practical exams?

Due to the closure of schools, it has not been possible for all practical work to be completed. Practical work completed previously by learners could be part of the assessment information that teachers can consider in producing their centre assessment grade for each learner.

Will we have to sit the exams in the autumn?

It is not our intention for learners in Wales to sit their AS or A levels in the autumn. Instead they will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work.

How will grades be calculated?

Grades for AS and A level qualifications in summer 2020 will be calculated using a range of evidence. They will be based on a combination of factors which may include marks for work completed to date (for example, AS results will be used to support the calculation of A level grades), and centre assessment grades. Centre assessment grades will be based on what teachers would expect a learner to achieve at the end of the course if they had sat the exams. They need to represent a fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely grade that might be achieved in normal circumstances. This is a professional judgement based on the combined assessment information held for that learner and will be holistic, rather than focusing on a single piece of evidence, like mock examinations. More information can be found here:https://qualificationswales.org/media/5973/information-for-centres-on-the-submission-of-centre-assessment-grades-version-2-18-may-2020.pdf

How will AS levels be affected?

This year all AS learners will receive a calculated AS grade and there will be no AS exams until summer 2021. The calculated grade will be based on a range of evidence, including centre assessment grades, and will not contribute to A level results in 2021.

In summer 2021, AS learners will have two options for their A level award. They can either;

  1. choose to only sit the A2 units, with the A level grade awarded solely on their performance in those units, or
  2. choose to sit AS and A2 units. If they chose to sit the AS units alongside the A2 units, they will be awarded the best grade from either route – either the grade awarded from performance on the A2 units alone or the grade awarded from combining both AS and A2 units.

A summary of these options can be found in our infographic.

Why can’t the AS grades I receive this summer be used as part of my full A level next summer?

The calculated grade issued to AS learners this summer will enable them to progress onto other pathways, as necessary. That might be other training, or employment, or to another school or college.

If a learner is carrying on to the full A level in summer 2021, the calculated grade from this summer cannot be used because it will be a grade and not a mark. Usually marks from each AS unit are aggregated in the calculation of the final A level grade.

It would not have been reasonable to ask centres to provide actual marks for learners this summer, so we had to consider other ways of awarding the A level in summer 2021.

There are two options:

Option 1: Actual performance in the A2 units in summer 2021 will be used to calculate the marks that would most likely have been achieved in the AS summer (2021). There is a clear statistical relationship between performance in different units and in normal circumstances this is the method used to award a grade if a learner has been unable to sit a unit assessment due to illness. So, it is an established method.

Option 2: Learners would normally have the option to take AS units alongside A2 units, and we don’t want to prevent next summer’s A level learners from having that option. If they do decide to take the AS and A2 units, then the UMS marks will be aggregated in the normal way. As a safeguard, if a learner chooses to take AS and A2 units together, then a comparison will be made with the grade they would have been awarded via the other route and the best grade will be awarded.

A summary of these options can be found in this infographic. Our Chief Executive has also recently written a blog on this.

Will results still be published in August?

Yes, AS and A level results will be published on 13 August.

Can I challenge the grade awarded to me, and how do I do that?

We have held a public consultation on the arrangements for the summer 2020 exams series, including the appeal process.  The decisions following the consultation will be made available on our website.

I’m a private candidate – how will I get my result?

Where centres have accepted entries from private candidates– learners who might be home-schooled, following distanced-learning programmes or studying independently – they should be included in the centre’s submission of data, as long as the Head of Centre is confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the leaners’ achievement to make an objective judgement. However, there may be cases where centres will not be able to make a judgement on the achievements of a private candidate. JCQ has recently issued additional guidance on this: http://jcq.org.uk/media-centre/news-releases/jcq-publishes-supplementary-information-on-validation-of-evidence .

How will my centre inform the awarding body of our centre assessment grades and rank order?

Awarding bodies have issued guidance to centres on how to enter their Centre Assessment Grades and Rank Order.  Systems went live on Monday 1st June, and can be accessed through awarding bodies secure websites.

Can schools and colleges consider evidence from specialist teachers or other professionals when making grading and rank ordering decisions?

WJEC have provided further guidance on validation of evidence by centres and students with special educational needs and/or disabilities here: https://www.wjec.co.uk/home/supporting-teachers-and-learners-during-coronavirus/guidance-for-centres/#tab_0   

Will the loss of current teaching time be taken into account for learners working towards GCEs in summer 2021?

We are working with awarding bodies to establish our approach to exams and awarding qualifications in 2021. Our aim is to ensure that no one is disadvantaged as a result of our current situation. This is a complicated situation. Further information will be made available on our website as soon as possible. Our Head of Standards, Kerry Davies, explains more in her blog: https://qualificationswales.org/english/coronavirus---covid-19/blogs/looking-ahead-for-those-halfway-through-courses/