Summer 2021 assessment - commonly asked questions
As you'll know, the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have confirmed their approach for issuing grades in summer 2021. Grades will need to be submitted by 18 June 2021. Below are some commonly asked questions to help you through the process. More information can also be found on the Department for Education website.
This page will be kept updated but, if you have a question which isn’t covered here, please visit our Summer 2021 support pages or contact your subject advisor.
1. JCQ guidance and information about summer 2021
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) have issued a guidance document on the process of deriving grades this summer
Whilst we recommend reading the full detail of the document, we know it’s an incredibly busy time in schools and colleges right now, and work towards determining grades for this summer is only one of the many things taking place. So, to help you work through and understand the detail of this guidance, we have pulled out the ten key areas to note from the document, which we hope you’ll find useful.
View the ten key areas to note in the process for deriving grades this summer
- Teachers will determine grades for students based on a range of evidence. It's important that grades represent a holistic, objective judgement based on evidence of each student’s performance in each subject.
- In coming to their holistic judgements, teachers will use their professional judgement to balance the full range of evidence available for each student against the performance standard set out in the grade descriptors and exemplification material, in line with the centre’s internal quality assurance process.
- Awarding organisations are responsible for awarding final grades.
- Heads of centre should ensure that students have the opportunity to show the full breadth of their knowledge and understanding in each subject based on what they have been taught.
- Each student must be made aware of the evidence that is going to be used and understand that the range of evidence used to determine a grade is not negotiable.
- This transparency should enable students to raise any errors or circumstances relating to particular pieces of evidence to be taken into account in advance of the grade submission and should reduce the number of instances in which students need to appeal.
- Centres should seek to make it no easier or harder for a student to achieve a particular grade this year compared to previous years. This is the same advice that was given to schools and colleges in summer 2020 - the expected performance standard for a grade has not changed.
- As part of their internal quality assurance, centres should consider the grades for this year’s cohort compared to cohorts from recent years when exams have taken place (2017, 2018 or 2019), where they can be confident that a consistent national standard was applied.
- Teachers can draw on existing records and available evidence from any point in the course. Centres should make sure that students are aware of the evidence that will form the basis of their final grade.
- Schools and colleges should aim to base their judgments on evidence that clearly relates to the specification, in terms of both content and assessment.
- It's not necessary for every aspect of the specification to be assessed to arrive at a grade. The aim is to include evidence that assesses the student’s ability across a reasonable range of subject content reflecting, where possible, all assessment objectives, as set out in qualification specifications.
- As far as possible, the sources of evidence should be consistent across a class or cohort of students, and centres should record the reasons for their selection.
- In cases where students have experienced significant disruption, however, some flexibility may be required. Each student must be made aware of the evidence that is going to be used and understand that the range of evidence used to determine a grade is not negotiable.
- Centres should use data on historical student and centre performance to help support their internal quality assurance process. Looking at centre’s outcomes over a three-year period in which exams took place (2017-2019), at subject and at centre level, may be a good approach to benchmarking outcomes for 2021. However, grading judgements should not be driven by this data. Historical grade data should only be considered after grading judgements have been made.
- At all times, it will be the evidence of students’ work that must form the basis for each student’s grade. Centres should not change grades only on the basis of data comparison.
2. Centre policy and processes
- Schools and colleges must adopt a ‘centre policy’ which their teachers will follow to ensure grades are determined consistently within their centre. Each head of centre will be required to declare that their centre has complied with its centre policy when grades are submitted.
- Teacher assessed grades will represent a holistic, objective judgement based on a range of evidence of each student’s performance that can be authenticated as their own.
- Teachers will use grade descriptors and grading exemplification (student responses from historical exam papers) to help inform their decisions. Decisions must not factor in the student’s potential (for example, be based on a predicted trajectory or target grades); if a learner is currently performing consistently at a grade B standard, they should be awarded a grade B.
- Teachers will ensure that students are aware of the evidence used to determine their grades, but will not share the grades submitted to awarding organisations before results are released.
- After all grading decisions have been made, centres are advised to review the aggregate cumulative grade distribution for each subject, and qualification type (e.g. GCSE, A level). This is an overall ‘common-sense’ check of outcomes. If outcomes are much higher than in previous years, or much lower, the reasons for it should be considered.
- Awarding organisations will collect grade decisions for the endorsements in spoken language in GCSE English Language and practicals in A level Biology, Chemistry, Geology and Physics at the same time as teacher assessed grades. Boards will confirm their individual arrangements to centres.
- Schools and colleges will conduct additional assessments to support the collection of evidence.
- A declaration by the head of centre is required to finalise the submission of grades.
- UK qualifications submit through the CAP (Centre Access Portal) that's accessible via Edexcel Online.
- International qualifications will submit through the PAAO (Pearson Access Arrangements) portal that's accessible via Edexcel Online.
- More information about the submission of centre policy forms can be found on the JCQ website.
The teacher assessed grades portal is now available to use between 26 May and 18 June.
Templates are available for you to download and add your teacher assessed grades. Please take a look at the information below that we hope you will find useful.
Submitting teacher assessed grades to Pearson in Summer 2021
A step-by-step video guide to entering teacher assessed grades for summer 2021 for relevant GCSE, AS/A level, International GCSE, International AS/A level, all other General, International and BTEC qualifications. The video displays a BTEC qualification example but the process is exactly the same for submitting for any qualification.
Teacher assessed grades (TAG/Q-TAG): Portal User Guide
A Knowledge Base Article, for all centre staff that will be using Pearson’s Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG) submission portal in 2021.
Teacher assessed grades (TAG/Q-TAG): User Guide
The PDF below provides guided information on how to submit teacher assessed grades for General, International and BTEC qualifications.
We recommend that you log in at your earliest convenience and check that your login and user profiles are correct for those staff that require access. Please also check that the candidate details and entries are correct and if there are any omissions or changes needed then please action them yourself via EOL or EDI.
Should you need to make any changes after 18 June please contact us as soon as possible via email to email@example.com.
There are 3 stages to the quality assurance process:
Stage 1: Schools and colleges develop and adopt a Centre Policy and submit a summary to awarding organisations for review. This is to ensure that the internal arrangements each centre has in place for determining grades are appropriate.
- Centres’ internal quality assurance will include internal standardisation of marking and grading judgements.
- Where the overall results at GCSE or A level look very different from recent years (2017, 2018 or 2019), centres should record the likely reasons for this as exam boards might ask to see this if the centre is selected for external quality assurance.
- Exam boards will target their quality assurance based on a number of factors, including where a centre’s results are considerably lower or higher than recent years.
Stage 2: Awarding organisations conduct virtual visits with schools and colleges where the summary indicates further support and guidance may be required.
Stage 3: The final stage of the quality assurance process is to confirm that centres have implemented what is in their Centre Policies and that their submitted grades reflect this. This will include subject level sampling. More detail can be found on the Ofqual website.
Once the grades are received, every centre will be asked to provide samples of student work. Exam boards will request at least the following evidence:
- 1 A level subject (at least 5 students).
- 2 GCSE subjects, one of which is likely to be either English language or maths (at least 5 students for each)
Centres that offer only A levels or only GCSEs will be asked to submit only work for those qualifications.
All centres will be asked to provide the evidence used to determine the grades for the students selected. Exam boards will decide on the subjects and the students (selected from across the grade range, and potentially including private candidates where centres have accepted them) and they will let centres know which subjects/students have been selected, in the week beginning 21 June.
Centres will need to submit this evidence promptly - within 48 hours of the request being made - so it's important that centres’ evidence and records are in good order ahead of that date.
Exam board subject experts will review the evidence provided by a sample of centres.
- Every centre will be required to develop a Centre Policy, which is an essential part of the quality assurance process.
- Exam boards will conduct virtual visits with any school or college where the summary indicates further support or guidance may be required. That could equate to all 6,000 centres, but exam boards believe it will be very many fewer than that.
- The final stage of the quality assurance process is to confirm that centres have implemented what is in their Centre Policies and that their submitted grades reflect this. This will include targeted and random sampling and will reflect what has been found previously.
- Hence, it is not possible to say at the outset how many centres will receive a virtual centre visit.
- There's no set requirement for the minimum amount of content that students must have been taught
- Heads of centre will be required to confirm that students have been taught sufficient content to form the basis for a grade and to progress to the next level of study
- There's an expectation that centres continue to teach the specification content for as long as possible this year (if possible), and it may be appropriate to assess students on some of this content, but this will very much depend on individual circumstances for each centre, e.g. it may have been appropriate to revisit the teaching of content taught earlier in the year under lockdown.
- Where possible, we'd like to see evidence from across the range of topics/AOs taught.
- There's an expectation that centres will continue to teach and assess students for as long as possible this year
- It may be appropriate to revisit the teaching of part of a topic that wasn’t taught fully first time around and to carry out some form of assessment on that content. This assessment doesn’t need to be a complete paper.
- This will very much depend on the individual circumstances of each centre, how much evidence they already have and whether they feel they've already covered a sufficient amount of the course content.
- It's not necessary for every aspect of the specification to be assessed to arrive at a grade.
- Some question types may occur across different papers, so it may be possible to provide evidence of a particular question type from a different paper.
The additional assessment materials are an optional part of the range of evidence that can be used to decide on each student’s grade. These will usually be based on past papers - including papers from 2019 and 2020 that haven’t previously been publicly released. In exceptional cases - such as where there aren’t enough past papers available - some new material may be provided.
These materials can be found on the Pearson website on the individual qualification pages.
- The 2021 assessment materials are qualification-specific sets of questions covering key knowledge, understanding and skills (made available by 31 March).
- The materials are available for all GCSE, AS and A levels, with the exception of Art and Design.
- They are drawn from a variety of examination questions and from a range of papers; they do not cover any NEA components.
- The number, breadth and depth of the material will vary between subjects, and reflect the characteristics of each qualification (e.g. where there's only one exam component, there'll be fewer materials than for a subject which is usually assessed entirely by examination). However, the assessments will draw on the equivalent of three series’ worth of examination material, as a minimum.
- The assessment materials are groups of questions focused on discrete areas of a specification and may vary in breadth and demand, depending on the topic. Therefore, unlike full past papers, there are no grade boundaries available.
- Evidence can come from throughout the taught course so, if your students have already taken the available past papers, sample paper and specimen paper, then you may already have sufficient evidence.
- If you need more evidence, or some of the work was done in Year 10, you may decide that it's appropriate to use some of this material again.
- It’s understood that students may have seen some material previously. The purpose of any materials should be considered before they're included in the range of evidence. If a student has recently completed a particular activity, there may be little benefit to them completing the same, or a very similar, activity again so you need to consider how long ago it was used.
- It would be appropriate for teachers to make up their own assessments, which could consist of questions from a number of papers. Questions could also be set by the teacher or they could be from third-party sources such as textbooks.
- Students should continue with the completion of NEA components where it is safe and possible to do so. The usual deadlines for NEA aren't applicable this year.
- Students shouldn't be penalised if they've been unable to complete their NEA due to circumstances beyond their control caused by the pandemic.
- Teachers should balance candidates’ performance in NEA components, even where they are not complete, with other sources of assessment evidence.
- Look for supplementary evidence that demonstrates similar skills, knowledge and understanding when making final grading decisions for the qualification.
- Where NEA is incomplete, or has been affected by the pandemic, use your professional judgement to weigh up the relative importance of coursework vs other evidence when making final grading decisions. Record the reasons for your decisions on assessment records.
- The joint Ofqual and DfE consultation outcome confirms that for GCSE English Language, GCSE modern foreign languages and A level sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics), centres should determine and submit a separate grade or result for the endorsement. This result or grade should be based on work that has been completed towards the endorsement.
- It has been agreed by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and all exam boards, that the deadline for submitting the endorsement grade or result should be extended to 18 June 2021 in line with the submission deadline for teacher assessment grades.
- We'll be aligning our approach to endorsements for our international qualifications, and so the deadline of 18 June 2021 also applies to the endorsements on our International GCSEs.
- The endorsements will still need to be uploaded to Edexcel Online, but these will not be moderated. This is the same process as for summer 2020.
- Centres were advised to continue with practical components, but only where it was safe to do so.
- The system in place this year does allow for differential loss in teaching and learning time, and this may be the practical component.
- Records of a student’s capability and performance over the course of study in performance-based subjects such as music, drama and PE should be retained as evidence where possible.
- The JCQ advice on grading suggests that you take a holistic approach to grading in combination with the published grade descriptors and exemplification.
- There's no requirement for the mark from an assessment to be converted into a grade. The mark should be considered alongside other pieces of evidence.
- Where evidence is based on a past paper with published notional grade boundaries, these boundaries can be used to help give the teacher confidence in the grade that's been assigned.
- Care should be taken with regards to the November 2020 boundaries as this was not a typical cohort/exam series and you should be considering recent years where we can be confident that a consistent national standard was applied (2017, 2018, 2019).
- Assign a grade for every student by considering the quality of the work in relation to:
- grade descriptors and
- grade exemplification.
- Where evidence is based on a past paper with published notional grade boundaries, these can be used to help give confidence in the grade that's been assigned.
- If you find that evidence covers more than one grade descriptor, a ‘best-fit’ approach may be used in order to make a holistic judgement on the grade, e.g. evidence for a student displays many characteristics of Grade 6, some characteristics of Grade 5 and a single characteristic of Grade 4 - a Grade 5 or 6 would be appropriate. Since there are more Grade 6 characteristics, settling on a Grade 6 is likely to be most appropriate. Remember that grades should be based on a holistic judgement.
- Teachers may wish to consider the nature of evidence and when it was produced as part of this judgement (e.g. does the student show signs of improvement from Year 10 to Year 11?).
6. Results and appeals
Results days will be on:
- 10 August for AS and A level
- 12 August for GCSE.
- Post results, the need for appeals should be limited as students should be confident in their grades because of adherence to an effective Centre Policy, a high standard of internal QA, effective provision of access arrangements, effective communication with students and their parents/guardians, effective record keeping, and the Head of Centre declaration.
- Students who consider that an error has been made in determining their grade will have a right to appeal.
- There are 2 stages of appeal: a centre review (Stage 1) or an appeal to an exam board (Stage 2).
- There are four grounds upon which a centre review or an appeal may be requested:
- At stage 1: The centre made an administrative error, e.g. an incorrect grade was submitted; an incorrect assessment mark was used when determining the grade.
- At stages 1 and 2: The centre did not apply a procedure correctly, such as: the centre didn't follow its Centre Policy; didn't undertake internal quality assurance; didn't take account of access arrangements or mitigating circumstances, such as illness.
- At stage 2: The awarding organisation made an administrative error, e.g. the grade was incorrectly changed by the awarding organisation during the processing of grades.
- At stage 2: The student considers that the centre made an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement in the choice of evidence from which to determine the grade and/or the determination of the grade from that evidence.
- Centres will, on request, conduct the first stage of the appeals process, to check if an administrative or procedural error has occurred.
- Centres will be required to submit second stage appeals to the awarding organisation on a student’s behalf, if the student continues to believe that an error persists or that the grade awarded was an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement.
Further guidance about the Appeals process, how it will operate and what it will mean for schools and colleges, will be released towards the end of May.
7. Support and training
There's a dedicated area on the website for support for summer 2021.
For subject-specific guidance documents and support, please visit the relevant subject pages.
Each subject has a dedicated subject advisor who can be contacted.
Training and other support documents can be found on the Pearson Professional Development academy website.