Grading for GCSE, AS and A level

Schools and colleges provided exam boards a centre assessment grade for each student in every GCSE, AS or A level subject they planned to take this summer, and a rank order of students by their expected performance.

To make sure standards are aligned across schools and colleges, all grades will be standardised by exam boards, using a model developed by Ofqual. The model will ensure that national results are broadly in line with those in previous years. It will consider each centre individually, comparing centre assessment grades to the centre’s historical results taking into account the prior attainment of the current students, to judge whether its centre assessment grades are more generous or severe than predicted.

If grading judgements in a school or college appear severe or generous, exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students up or down accordingly, using the rank order. This will amend the centre assessment grades to align them with the predicted grade distribution.

For a typical centre, exam boards will predict the grade distribution in each subject and allocate grades based on the following sources of evidence.

  1. The centre’s historical performance in the subject – that is, the grades of every student taking the qualification at that centre over a number of years. The exact number of years considered will depend on the qualification.
  2. The prior attainment of the centre’s students in previous years – that is, how these students, whose examined grades in that subject are available, performed in exams previously. For AS and A level qualifications this looks back to their GCSEs. For GCSEs this looks back to their results on national assessments.
  3. The prior attainment for those students sitting the subject this year, compared to previous years.
  4. Information submitted by the centre this year.

For each centre in every subject, exam boards will use historical performance data to determine the proportion of candidates achieving each grade in previous years.

They will check this year’s prior attainment against previous years and adjust the predicted grade distribution if it’s different. Depending on their ability, the grade distribution might be adjusted up or down.

Exam boards then use this grade distribution to allocate grades to students, without changing the rank order. For some students, the grade they are allocated won’t be the same as the centre assessment grade that was submitted.

Before results are issued, exam boards will compare the national results with those in previous years - to check they are not too generous or too severe for students this summer.

See Also

Guide to 2020 Exam Results

This year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, exams have been cancelled. In their stead, a set of rigorous grade calculation methods will ensure that post-16 students can progress further with their education and employment.