The DfE and Ofqual ran a consultation on proposed changes to GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022, and published the decisions on 30 September 2021. 

Read more

Read the full consultation outcome.

Proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022

Take a look at our FAQs that you may find helpful below. 

General

The Department for Education consulted on four different types of adaptations for assessments in 2022: Advance Information, optionality, exam support, and NEA/fieldwork adaptions. 

In addition to these four main categories of adaptations, there are also adaptations to the assessment of practical science work.

The details of the summer 2022 adaptions are summarised on the qualification pages for each subject.  

Learn more - summer 2022 support

Adaptions for International GCSE qualifications will be made in line with the adaptations to their equivalent GCSE subjects, where relevant. Please visit the relevant subject pages for details. 

Adaptations do not apply to International AS and A level qualifications due to the modular nature of these qualifications. The exception here is International A level Law, a linear qualification, for which adaptations will be made.

Learn more - summer 2022 support

Advance Information

In the summer 2022 consultation the Department for Education stated that students will be supported in their preparations for the summer 2022 assessments through providing Advance Information on the focus of the content of exams. 

Students’ education has been disrupted this year by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To make exams in 2022 less daunting for GCSE, AS and A level students, for many subjects they will be told in advance some of the content that will or won’t be on the papers, helping them to manage their exam preparation.

Advance Information will not be identical between different awarding organisations because qualification content and/or assessment is not identical. However, awarding organisations have worked together in the creation of Advance Information to ensure that it is comparable for each subject/qualification, and has the same level of impact on students in terms of their exam preparation.

The consultation outcome states that Advance Information should be released by 7 February 2022. However, the DfE have also confirmed that should the impact of the pandemic worsen, Advance Information could be issued earlier in the academic year to help teachers focus their remaining teaching time. 

The DfE will be monitoring the ongoing impact of the pandemic and we will update you on the timing of the Advance Information release once the Department for Education has confirmed.

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Advance Information is being provided for most GCSE, AS and A level qualifications. Advance Information will also be provided for Core Maths and the Edexcel Awards. 

Where there are optionality adaptations, Advance Information is not being provided (GCSE English Literature, GCSE History and GCSE Geography.) Where there is no examination in a qualification, Advance Information is not being provided (GCSE and A level Art and Design).

The Advance Information released by 7 February 2022 will apply to the Summer 2022 exam series only.

Advance Information will be provided for the November 2022 resit series for GCSE English Language and Maths, but this will be different Advance Information to the summer series, and will be released in July 2022, unless further disruption justifies an earlier release.

No. Advance Information is to inform exam preparation and is not to be taken into the exam. 

Yes, learners can have access to the Advance Information to support their exam preparation. 

Advance Information will be provided for International GCSE qualifications, with the exception of English Literature, History and Geography, in line with the approach taken for UK GCSE qualifications. Advance Information does not apply to International Advanced Levels which have a modular assessment structure. Advance Information will be provided for IAL Law, which is a linear qualification. 

The presentation of Advance Information will vary between subjects to reflect the different characteristics of the qualifications.  The information which is provided will detail the focus of particular aspects of the examination for example, the content, contexts, texts, topics, sub-topics, themes and/or skills that will be assessed in the 2022 exams.

The information may be at qualification level, paper level or section level, depending on the nature and design of the qualification and assessment. 

Advance Information will be available to download via the Pearson Edexcel website.

Optionality

Optionality provides a choice of topics in GCSE English Literature and GCSE History and choice of content in GCSE Geography. Therefore, optionality reduces the volume of subject content that is required to be taught or assessed for summer 2022.

Due to the disruption to teaching caused by the pandemic, and lost learning time, optionality gives some choice of topics beyond a common core, to support teachers in delivering the required subject content in the time available. 

GCSE English Literature, GCSE History, and GCSE Geography. 

Yes, for GCSE English Literature and History the optionality is the same as proposed in 2021. Geography did not have optionality proposed in 2021, and so the arrangements for 2022 are a new adaptation which has been added in response to feedback on the 2021 arrangements. 

There will be no Advance Information for the subjects which are having optionality in 2022.

However, GCSE Geography will be having fieldwork adaptions which were outlined in the NEA and Fieldwork consultation. The specific details of these adaptations can be found on the GCSE Geography 2022 support page

The same optionality arrangements which were proposed for GCSE English Literature and History 2021 have been carried forward into 2022 to minimise the impact of further change. For GCSE Geography this is a new adaptation.  

As with any arrangement which is applied at a midway point in a two- or three-year course, there will be the risk that some of the optional content has been covered, and some of the compulsory content has not. Where content has been covered, time can still be saved in not revisiting or revising this content from this point forward. 

Optionality is in place for International GCSE Geography and International GCSE History. Although there is no optionality for International GCSE English Literature there has been an adjustment to Paper 1. The Part 3 anthology poetry will not be assessed. Unseen poetry will be assessed.

Exam support

In some GCSE subjects, students normally have to memorise key formulae and recall it when they need to use it to answer a question in the exam. Exam support is the provision of additional material which learners can access during the exam, instead of memorising this information. 

The aims of exam support are to provide additional support to learners who are usually required to memorise formulas or equations for use in their examinations

GCSE Maths, GCSE Physics and GCSE Combined Science.

For GCSE Physics and GCSE Combined Science, the exam support will be a separate equation sheet which gives students all the equations they will have covered in the GCSE course.

For GCSE Maths, the exam support will be a separate formula sheet which gives students the formulas which they may need to refer to in their assessment, appropriate to their tier of entry.

Exam support materials are provided on the subject pages for GCSE Maths, GCSE Physics and GCSE Combined Science.

GCSE Maths summer 2022 support

GCSE Physic summer 2022 support

GCSE Combined Science summer 2022 support

No. Exam support will be provided in hardcopy as an insert for each learner in the examination. This support material will be identical to the material accessible in advance on our website subject pages. Exam support materials which have been accessed in advance should not be taken into the examination. 

For the November 2022 resit examination series, the same formulae sheets will be provided for GCSE Maths as for the 2022 summer series.

Exam support will be provided for International GCSE Physics and the Physics sections of International Science (Double Award) and International GCSE Science (Single Award). The exam support will be a separate equation sheet which gives students all the equations they will have covered in the course. 

International GCSE Physics

International Science (Double Award)

International GCSE Science (Single Award)

NEA and fieldwork

NEA and fieldwork adaptations are amendments to qualifications requirements which take account of public health restrictions that could have had an impact on the way the assessments in certain qualifications could be conducted.

Learn more - Arrangements for non-exam assessment for qualifications in 2022

The aims of the adaptations are to accommodate public health restrictions which could limit the delivery of NEA and fieldwork activities. 

NEA adaptations have been made for GCSE and A levels in Design and Technology, Drama (and Theatre), Music, and Physical Education, GCSE English Language (spoken language endorsement) and AS/A level Music Technology.

Fieldwork adaptations have been made for GCSE and AS/A level Geography.

Adaptations to the assessments in GCSE Languages qualifications were also included in the NEA and fieldwork consultation.

The details of the adaptations for each subject can be found by visiting the relevant 2022 support pages.

Learn more - summer 2022 support

Practical science work

For GCSE Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Combined Science, and AS Biology, Chemistry and Physics teachers will be able to deliver the practical requirement by demonstration. Students will be able to observe a demonstration by the teacher or observe the practical work being undertaken remotely, for example by watching a demonstration online or on video.

For A level Biology, Chemistry and Physics, teachers can assess the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required for students to demonstrate their competence instead of students being required to complete at least 12 practical activities as determined by the DfE subject content.

Contingency for UK Qualifications in Summer 2022

Where a GCSE, AS or A level includes non-exam assessment (NEA), such as a dance or music performance, teachers should support their students, wherever possible, to complete that assessment in line with arrangements announced by Ofqual for 2022 and the timescales set by exam boards. If exams go ahead as we expect, the NEA will be marked and moderated as usual and combined with students’ exam marks to generate their grades. If exams are cancelled, teachers will be expected to take a student’s NEA into account when determining a TAG.   

For art and design qualifications, for which there are no exams, students should complete their non-exam assessments in line with the requirements previously published. 

With the exception of art and design qualifications, teachers should assess their students to provide them with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding across the range of content they have been taught and in ways that cover the assessment objectives for the qualification.  

Students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels and the Advanced Extension Award should be assessed under exam-like conditions wherever possible: for example, students should not know before the assessment the questions they will answer, they should work independently and not be assisted (other than as required for a reasonable adjustment), they should not have access to books or revision notes and the assessment should be timed and supervised. These controls may be provided within a classroom rather than exam hall setting.   

Students taking GCSEs in maths, combined science and physics should have access in their assessments to the formulae and equation sheets that they will have in the summer exams. Students taking art and design qualifications should complete their non-exam assessments – no additional assessments are needed.  

A centre must either assess all of its students who are taking a particular qualification using the same material at the same time, or using different materials at different times.  

If it is not possible to assess the whole cohort at the same time, the assessment approach for any particular qualification should be consistent within a centre: for example, students must be assessed at broadly the same time, over the same range of content and using the same style of assessment (but not the same questions). Exceptions might be needed, for example if a centre is assessing a private candidate who has not covered the same content as the centre’s students, if a student joins a centre later in the year, or if an individual student has been taught significantly less than the cohort because of illness.   

Reasonable adjustments should be made for disabled students. 

Ideally three assessments should be identified as those which would inform TAGs. These should be spread over the remaining academic year: for example, in the second half of the autumn term 2021, in the spring term of 2022, and the first half of the summer term 2022. Any other normal assessment points should be used to provide evidence to inform TAGs if they are needed.   

Some subjects are assessed by a combination of exam and non-exam assessments. Teachers should consider the balance of exam and non-exam assessments when deciding on how many occasions students should be assessed.   

Some centres, for good reason, might adopt a different approach to assessing their students, for example because of the characteristics of their students, or the nature of their provision. In such cases, centres should be able to provide a rationale for their approach to the exam boards if exams are cancelled.   

Some centres might have assessed their students before the October half term.  

Centres may wish to aim for a total assessment time that does not significantly exceed the total time students would spend taking exams for the relevant qualification, plus any time spent on non-exam assessment. Try not to over-assess and think about opportunities to schedule specific assessment opportunities which taken together would provide evidence from broadly the same proportion of the specification as would normally be covered in exams.   

Students should only be assessed on content they have been taught. Teachers should plan the package of assessments so that students are assessed, across the assessments when taken together, on a wide range of content, similar to that on which they will expect to be assessed in their summer exams, and across the assessment objectives for the qualification.   

The assessments should be as useful as possible for students preparing to take summer exams. Assessments should be similar to full or parts of the exam papers they are preparing to take next summer. Past papers could be used, in full or part, where appropriate. If teachers develop their own assessments, the questions used should be in a similar style to those found in the corresponding exam board’s exam papers and marked in line with the exam board’s approach to marking exam questions for the qualification.   

Teachers setting assessments after the advance information for the summer 2022 exams has been published, should take that advance information into account when deciding how to assess their students and make their students aware of the fact that they have done so prior to their assessments.   

Students should not be given the opportunity to repeat an assessment, for example to improve their mark in response to feedback. Their performance in later assessments might, of course, reflect feedback on their performance in earlier assessments.   

Yes. Where assessments are scheduled after the publication of this guidance, students must be told before they take each assessment that their performance in it would be used as part of the evidence to determine a TAG if exams are cancelled. This information should be given sufficiently far in advance of the assessment to allow students time to revise and prepare.  

Students should be told which parts of the subject content will be covered by the assessment, but they should not be told the questions in advance or be able to predict the questions from information given to them. This means that students should not, for example, be assessed using past papers from one particular year spread over three assessment points, as students would be able to predict the questions they would be answering in the later assessments.  

In exceptional circumstances, it might be necessary for work that was not undertaken in line with this guidance to be used to inform a TAG, for example where a student misses the later assessments because of illness. Guidance will be provided on this if exams are cancelled.   

The same reasonable adjustments that will be made for disabled students taking exams in the summer should, where possible, be applied to the assessments – and records made of the adjustments and the reasons for them. The centre should record the reason why any reasonable adjustment was not made.   

If a student’s need for a reasonable adjustment is only identified after an assessment had taken place, their teacher should record the reason for this late identification and allow the student to undertake a different, but equivalent, assessment with the reasonable adjustment in place.    

If a teacher is satisfied that a student’s performance in one or more of the assessments was affected by an event that was outside of the student’s control at the time of, or immediately before, the assessment, such as illness or family bereavement, the teacher should adjust their marking of the assessment. The JCQ’s approach to special consideration provides a helpful reference point for teachers who need to adjust a mark to take such an event into account. The centre should keep a record of the event and the marking adjustment, in a form that would be available for an exam board to review if exams are cancelled. Centres should make sure students know they need to tell their teachers before or immediately after the assessment of any events outside of their control that might have affected their performance in an assessment.    

Where disruption to education means assessments cannot be completed for all or some of their students in line with the guidance, centres should take reasonable steps to collect evidence of each student’s knowledge and understanding in ways that align as far as possible with the guidance. Centres will need to be assured that the evidence collected is of the student’s work alone – that it is authentic – and that it covers a broad range of the subject content and the assessment objectives for the qualification.  Centres should record the exceptional reasons why they have not been able to gather evidence in line with this guidance for all or some of their students. The records will need to be available for exams boards to check if exams are cancelled.    

Teachers should mark the assessments in line with our published mark schemes and guidance that can be found on the qualification pages. Centres should support teachers to mark work for the same qualification to the same standard. Students should be provided with feedback, which could include marks or comments. Teachers may tell the student the grade indicated by their performance in the assessment, but they must make it clear to their students that this is not a TAG. It will not be possible for a teacher to determine a TAG unless and until Ofqual sets specific guidance on the determination of TAGs for 2022, which it will only do if exams are cancelled.   

The original student work must be retained by the centre securely - students may be given copies if this would help support their learning.  

Students taking project qualifications do not take exams. Project qualifications use non-exam assessment only. Teachers do not, therefore, need to carry out any additional assessment of their project students to collect evidence in case exams are cancelled. They should encourage and support students to complete their project assessments as usual.   

In normal years, when exams take place, private candidates register with a centre which arranges for the candidate to take their exams alongside the centre’s students. As we expect exams to take place in 2022, centres are encouraged to allow private candidates to register with them in the usual way.  

Some private candidates might want centres to assess them throughout the year, alongside the centre’s students, in line with the DfE and Ofqual guidance. Centres may agree to do so, although they would need to make sure the assessments only covered content the private candidate had studied. Alternatively, private candidates could be assessed only if exams are cancelled, in which case they would be assessed in a compressed period.    

If exams are cancelled, the Department for Education would again explore ways to encourage centres to work with private candidates and to provide affordable opportunities for private candidates to work with centres.  

Contingency for International Qualifications in Summer (May/June) 2022

Where an International GCSE, AS or A level includes non-exam assessment (NEA), such as a dance or music performance, teachers should support their students, wherever possible, to complete that assessment in line with arrangements announced for those qualifications. If exams go ahead as we expect, the NEA will be marked and moderated as usual and combined with students’ exam marks to generate their grades. If exams are cancelled, teachers will be expected to submit a student’s NEA as part of the portfolio of evidence.   

Teachers should assess their students to provide them with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding across the range of content they have been taught and in ways that cover the assessment objectives for the qualification.  

Students taking International GCSEs, AS and A levels and iPLS should be assessed under exam-like conditions wherever possible, for example:

  • students should not know before the assessment the questions they will answer
  • students should work independently and not be assisted (other than as required for a reasonable adjustment)
  • students should not have access to books or revision notes
  • the assessment should be timed and supervised.

These controls may be provided within a classroom rather than exam hall setting.   

Students taking International GCSEs in single science, combined science and physics should have access in their assessments to the formulae and equation sheets that they will have in the summer exams.  

Students taking art and design qualifications should complete their non-exam assessments – no additional assessments are needed.  

A centre must either assess all of its students who are taking a particular qualification using the same material at the same time, or using different materials at different times.  

If it is not possible to assess the whole cohort at the same time, the assessment approach for any particular qualification should be consistent within a centre, for example, students must be assessed:

  • at broadly the same time
  • over the same range of content
  • using the same style of assessment (but not the same questions).

Exceptions might be needed, for example:

  • if a centre is assessing a private candidate who has not covered the same content as the centre’s students
  • if a student joins a centre later in the year
  • if an individual student has been taught significantly less than the cohort because of illness.   

Reasonable adjustments should be made for disabled students.

One past paper that has not previously been sat by learners should be identified and sat and would be part of the portfolio submitted.  Any other normal assessment points should be used to provide evidence to inform the portfolio if they are needed.  This could be, for example:

  • in the second half of the autumn term 2021
  • in the spring term of 2022
  • in the first half of the summer term 2022.

Any other normal assessment points should be used to provide evidence if they are needed.   

Some subjects are assessed by a combination of exam and non-exam assessments. Teachers should consider the balance of exam and non-examined assessments when deciding on how many occasions students should be assessed.   

Some centres, for good reason, might adopt a different approach to assessing their students, for example because of the characteristics of their students, or the nature of their provision. In such cases, centres should be able to provide a rationale for their approach to the exam boards if exams cannot go ahead.

One past paper that has not previously been sat by learners should be identified and sat and would be part of the portfolio submitted.  Students should only be assessed on content they have been taught. Teachers should plan the package of assessments so that students are assessed, across the assessments when taken together, on a wide range of content, similar to that on which they will expect to be assessed in their summer exams, and across the assessment objectives for the qualification.   

The assessments should be as useful as possible for students preparing to take summer exams. Assessments should be similar to full or parts of the exam papers they are preparing to take next summer. Past papers could be used, in full or part, where appropriate. If teachers develop their own assessments, the questions used should be in a similar style to those found in Pearson’s exam papers and marked in line with Pearson’s approach to marking exam questions for the qualification.   

If setting assessments after the advance information for the summer 2022 exams has been published, teachers should take that advance information into account when deciding how to assess their students. They should make their students aware of the fact that they have done so prior to their assessments.   

Students should not be given the opportunity to repeat an assessment, for example to improve their mark in response to feedback. Their performance in later assessments might, of course, reflect feedback on their performance in earlier assessments. 

Yes. Where assessments are scheduled after the publication of this guidance, students must be told before they take each assessment that their performance in it would be used as part of the evidence to determine a grade if exams are cancelled. This information should be given sufficiently far in advance of the assessment to allow students time to revise and prepare.  

Students should be told which parts of the subject content will be covered by the assessment, but they should not be told the questions in advance or be able to predict the questions from information given to them. This means that students should not, for example, be assessed using past papers from one particular year spread over three assessment points, as students would be able to predict the questions they would be answering in the later assessments.  

In exceptional circumstances, it might be necessary for work that was not undertaken in line with this guidance to be used to inform a grade, for example where a student misses the later assessments because of illness. Guidance will be provided on this if exams are cancelled.   

The same reasonable adjustments that will be made for disabled students taking exams in the summer should, where possible, be applied to the assessments – and records made of the adjustments and the reasons for them. The centre should record the reason why any reasonable adjustment was not made.   

If a student’s need for a reasonable adjustment is only identified after an assessment has taken place, their teacher should record the reason for this late identification and allow the student to undertake a different, but equivalent, assessment with the reasonable adjustment in place.    

If a teacher is satisfied that a student’s performance in one or more of the assessments was affected by an event that was outside of the student’s control at the time of, or immediately before, the assessment, such as illness or family bereavement, the teacher should adjust their marking of the assessment. The JCQ’s approach to special consideration provides a helpful reference point for teachers who need to adjust a mark to take such an event into account.  Centres should make sure students know they need to tell their teachers before, or immediately after, the assessment of any events outside of their control that might have affected their performance in an assessment.   

Where disruption to education means assessments cannot be completed for all or some of their students in line with the guidance, centres should take reasonable steps to collect evidence of each student’s knowledge and understanding in ways that align as far as possible with the guidance. Centres will need to be assured that the evidence collected is of the student’s work alone – that it is authentic – and that it covers a broad range of the subject content and the assessment objectives for the qualification.  Centres should record the exceptional reasons why they have not been able to gather evidence in line with this guidance for all or some of their students. The records will need to be available for Pearson to check if exams are cancelled.    

The original student work must be retained by the centre securely – students may be given copies if this would help support their learning.  

Students taking Project qualifications do not take exams. Project qualifications use non-examined assessment only. Teachers do not, therefore, need to carry out any additional assessment of their Project students to collect evidence in case exams are cancelled. They should encourage and support students to complete their project assessments as usual.   

In normal years, when exams take place, private candidates register with a centre which arranges for the candidate to take their exams alongside the centre’s students. As we expect exams to take place in 2022, centres are encouraged to allow private candidates to register with them in the usual way.  

Some private candidates might want centres to assess them throughout the year, alongside the centres' students, in line with the DfE and Ofqual guidance. Centres may agree to do so, although they would need to make sure the assessments only covered content the private candidate had studied. Alternatively, private candidates could be assessed only if exams are cancelled, in which case they would be assessed in a compressed period.    

If exams are cancelled, the Department for Education would again explore ways to encourage centres to work with private candidates and to provide affordable opportunities for private candidates to work with centres.