2020 Exams - FAQs and Updates

1. Did exams need to be cancelled?

From Friday 20 March, all educational settings are closed to everyone except the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

The coronavirus outbreak is expected to continue having a significant impact on the education system, and the country, for months to come. Therefore exams have been cancelled now to give pupils, parents, and teachers certainty, and enable schools and colleges to focus on supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

2. What will happen to those who have already done some non-exam assessment?

The calculated grade process will take into account a range of evidence including, for example, non-exam assessment and mock results, and the approach will be standardised between schools and colleges. Ofqual is working urgently with the exam boards to set out proposals for how this process will work and will be talking to teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that the approach taken is as fair as possible.

3. How will you address the fact that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have their grades under-predicted?

We are not awarding students their predicted grades. Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator, will develop a fair and robust process that takes into account a broad range of evidence, including teacher assessment and prior attainment. Ofqual will make every effort to ensure that the process agreed does not disadvantage any particular group of students.

Pupils who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again.

4. Will all students get their predicted grade?

No, we know that simply using predicted grades would not be fair to all students. The calculated grade will take into account teachers’ assessment of the likely grade as well as other factors such as prior attainment, so students’ final grades will not necessarily reflect their predicted grades.

5. Will schools be using mock exam results as a barometer for results – and is this fair on students as they did not know at the time these would be used as their final mark?

Mock exam results will be one of the pieces of evidence that will be taken into account in this process, alongside other factors. Ofqual will ensure schools are provided with clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly.

6. Will the past performance of the school be taken into account when devising the calculated grade?

Ofqual will consider carefully how to ensure the process is as fair as possible, which is likely to include considering measures that reflect how much progress a student would have been likely to have made at the school they are attending.

7. Is this an entirely new system?

Exam boards have experience of using moderated teacher assessment to award grades to a number of students, such as those who fall ill immediately before an exam. Ofqual will draw on this experience when developing the process to be used this year.

8. How will schools/colleges cope with the burden of putting on an atypical exam season?

We recognise that exams are a stressful time for schools and colleges. We will set out in due course the steps we will be taking to minimise this burden.

9. Will universities/colleges/sixth forms accept these calculated grades?

The calculated grades awarded will be formal grades, with the same status as grades awarded in any other year.

University representatives have already confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

10. What if I am unhappy with my grade?

We will work closely with Ofqual and awarding organisations to ensure candidates are awarded a fair grade that recognises the work they have put in. If a student does not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

11. Will there be an opportunity to take exams this year if a student is unhappy with their grade?

We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they have not been able to sit their exams. If they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

12. What about private candidates or home educated students?

We will work closely with the independent regulator of qualifications, Ofqual, to explore options for awarding grades to private candidates, including home educated students.

13. Can private centres run GCSEs/A levels if they chose to do so?

No. Exam boards will not be issuing papers for this summer’s GCSE, AS and A levels so there will not be the opportunity to sit them at any centre.

14. Does this mean every exam in every module in every subject being cancelled, or will a limited number go ahead at GCSE and/or A level?

Exam boards will not be issuing papers for this summer’s GCSE, AS and A levels so there will not be the opportunity to sit them in any subject.

15. What about vocational and technical qualifications?

No exams will be taking place in schools and colleges this summer.

There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications as well as other academic qualifications for which students were expecting to sit exams this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations, and have differing assessment approaches – in many cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. We are encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Ofqual is working urgently with the sector to explore options and we will work with them to provide more details shortly.

16. Will parents be required to educate their children while they are off school?

We are completely committed to ensuring that every child receives the best education possible and will be working with the BBC and others to provide resources for children to access while at home.

17. What if have started my coursework but it is not finished?

Exam boards will provide advice on this to schools and colleges as soon as possible.

18. What will young people with university offers do?

The grades awarded to students will have equal validity to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers. There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted.

We welcome the constructive approach taken by the main university representative body, Universities UK, who have said that universities will be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to university.

19. Do universities need to start making unconditional offers / should I accept an unconditional offer now that exams are cancelled?

The grades awarded to students will have equal validity to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers.

There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted. Universities should not begin making new unconditional offers and applicants should feel no pressure to accept such offers, as they will be awarded a formal calculated grade for each exam they would have taken.

20. If I already have an unconditional offer, does that remain?

Yes, an unconditional offer means you have already met the entry requirements, so the place is yours if you want it.

21. If I take the exam option, will I still be able to go to university this year?

Students who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after the beginning of the academic year.

While it cannot be guaranteed in every circumstance, Universities UK has assured us that the majority of universities will show the utmost flexibility to ensure that such students who take this option are able to begin their course with a delayed start time.

If a student is in this circumstance, they should speak to the university from which they have an offer after receiving their calculated grade.

22. Are iGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate also cancelled?

We are making clear to all awarding organisations that no exams should go ahead in schools and colleges in England this year.

23. How will colleges, sixth-forms, universities cope with the fact that these students will have missed out on some of their education?

These are extraordinary circumstances. We are working with schools, sixth forms, colleges and universities to ensure that we do everything we can to best help students prepare for and progress to the next stage of their education.

24. Might the exams be reinstated if the coronavirus (COVID-19) is not as bad as expected?

No, the decision has been taken to cancel all exams this summer.


Update for Cambridge schools on May/June series 2020

To all Cambridge International schools worldwide,

Cambridge International would like to thank you for your support and feedback on our decision not to hold our international examinations in the May/June 2020 series, announced on 23 March.

We have received a hugely positive reaction from our global community of schools to this decision. We are putting the safety of our students and teachers as our number one priority.

We are grateful to all our schools that have sent us their questions and suggestions. It is vital for us to keep informed of all your concerns and challenges.

Providing grades for students

We know how important it is to you to have clarity on what happens next.

We will be working with schools worldwide to ensure that the subject grades earned by the students represent their achievement levels as set out by rigorous Cambridge programme standards. Schools will be asked to collaborate with us to ensure that candidates’ grades are based on a range of evidence. We will provide an update with more details on 31 March.

We understand that schools need clarity about the process we will follow to provide grades, how we will involve teachers in this process, and the administrative tasks and deadlines schools will need to follow to ensure that candidates receive the grades they deserve.

Cambridge International is strongly placed to provide a fair and recognised assessment of students’ level of knowledge and understanding. However, we want to make sure that we develop the most fair and reliable process possible in these uniquely challenging circumstances.

Although we do not have all the answers right now, we want to reassure you that we will provide the information and guidance you need to navigate this change successfully as soon as possible. Grades we provide will carry the same currency as they have in any other year.

Other frequently asked questions

Many schools are asking other questions, too. We are regularly updating our ‘Information for schools’ page with more information on topics including:

  • October/November series: schools can enter candidates for this exam series from mid-May. We are reviewing if it will be possible to provide syllabuses in this series which are currently only available in the May/June series.  We will update schools before 10 April.
  • What to do with question paper packets for the May/June exam series when they arrive: see our full advice in the FAQ.
  • Questions on coursework: please retain all coursework. We are happy for you to continue to receive coursework from students where it is safe to do so. You do not need to send it to us. We will update you further next week.
  • Cambridge Checkpoint: The May 2020 test series for Checkpoint will no longer go ahead. As an alternative, schools can access our Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary Progression Tests and mark schemes to support their students. These are available for English, English as a Second Language, Mathematics and Science. If you have made entries for the May 2020 test series, you need do nothing further at this point. We will withdraw your Checkpoint entries automatically and credit your account for the entries you made.

We are adding more information to this page over the coming days.

Private candidates

Many schools have asked about private candidates, whose futures are just as important to us as those working directly via schools. Private candidates take exams in different contexts and we are working out arrangements for them. Our next update will be on 31 March.

University recognition

The grades and qualifications that Cambridge International awards for this May/June series will carry the same value as grades and qualifications for any other series.

We are working closely with universities around the world to inform them of our decision to not hold the exams in the May/June series. Universities understand that this decision was a last resort for Cambridge and they realise that this unprecedented step was taken in the interest of our learners.

Universities have informed us that they are committed to being as flexible as they can towards applicants who will not be able to sit their exams due to this crisis. Universities are committed to making every effort to ensure that applicants are not disadvantaged in any way by the decision not to go ahead with the June series. We are working closely with universities to ensure that the grades are accepted in the usual way.

Support for teaching and learning

We know that schools are doing outstanding work to deliver teaching remotely, and to support students and their families. We understand how important it is to keep students engaged and motivated, and for them to continue to feel connected their teachers, schools and fellow students

We want to do everything we can to support schools in these efforts and have published a ‘Teaching and learning when school is closed’ section on our website: www.cambridgeinternational.org/support-for-schools-covid-19

The section signposts you to:

  • Tools to support remote teaching and learning
  • Resources for you and your learners including tips for students and parents on managing stress and learning effectively at home
  • E-books from Cambridge publishing partners
  • Webinars and training (curating other offers and uploading our own)

We are talking with schools about what else we can do to support them with each new challenge this situation presents and will add more content to this area over the coming weeks.

Communicating with students and families

To support schools in answering questions from learners and their families, we are attaching with this email a template letter that may be used by schools to help explain the situation.

Staying in touch

We know how greatly schools value support from our Customer Services. Our team is committed to supporting you in the coming weeks and helping you with your queries.

We warmly encourage you to get in touch with us via: www.cambridgeinternational.org/help whenever you have questions. You can also find many answers on the same page.

We will update schools again on 31 March and wish everyone in the Cambridge International community well at this difficult time.


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