General Qualifications Bulletin - International - Issue 6 | Pearson qualifications

General Qualifications Bulletin - International - Issue 6

7 April 2021
Pearson General Qualifications Bulletin

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We know it continues to be busy in schools and making arrangements to determine grades this summer is only one of the many things taking place. We have several updates for you in this edition of the International Qualifications Bulletin – most importantly we can share with you the  Pearson Guidance on the Determination of Grades for International AS/A Levels and International GCSEs (PDF, 1.4 MB) for this summer 2021.

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This document provides an overview of the approach together with detail on each of the specific aspects – including quality assurance, grading and appeals. It is important that you take time work through the document and in the coming weeks we will do all that we can to support you in your understanding of it. For example, we will share some checklists and ‘how to’ guides with the aim of offering a practical support to you.  

We will continue to share further information in future editions of our newsletter and through the support materials available on our dedicated summer 2021 support page and the Pearson Professional Development Academy over the coming weeks. 

As you prepare for this summer, we are keen to hear your thoughts on what enhanced support you think may be helpful - we are committed to meeting your needs as far as we are able to do so. Please submit any suggestions or feedback, and we will make sure this features in our thinking over the coming weeks. 

To ensure you have the latest information, please continue to visit our dedicated support page, and follow us on Twitter (@ PearsonEdexcel) and  Facebook  to keep up to date. If you would like to speak to us directly, you can get in touch with any questions via our contact form, or by calling the relevant team for your role.   

My thanks again to you and your colleagues for the amazing work you are doing every day. 

Hayley White 
Assessment Director

For our international qualifications, including International A Level and International GCSE, Pearson have produced a comprehensive guidance document (PDF, 1.4 MB) on the process for deriving grades this summer.

For UK qualifications, including GCSE, AS and A levels, the Joint Council for Qualifications have released comprehensive guidance (PDF, 1.5 MB) on the process for deriving grades this summer. 

These guidance documents, along with our support, will be important 
documents as centres work to determine grades for qualifications in summer 2021.    

We know it’s a busy time in centres at the moment and work towards determining grades for this summer is only one of the many things taking place. So, to help centres work through and understand the detail of this guidance, we have pulled out the ten key areas to note from the document (PDF, 0.1 MB), which we hope will be useful.  

There are also a wide range of helpful downloadable materials that we recommend looking at for UK qualifications including: 

  • guidance for students and parents
  • centre policy 
  • A/AS level grade descriptors 
  • GCSE grade descriptors 
  • Head of Department checklist 
  • retention of evidence 
  • interim guidance for Private Candidate Centres. 

We know that you’re already doing a tremendous job and are keen to start work on preparing for grading your students. Our Pearson Professional Development Academy is now live and will host detailed guidance and support in the form of video presentations, infographics and step- by-step guides to support you in determining fair grades for your students so they can progress on to their next stage. This will include: 

  • how to reach grading decisions,
  • the creation of assessment materials
  • the quality assurance process and appeals 
  • general support around timelines and submission systems.  

We’re also providing live and pre-recorded support and guidance events via our Professional Development Academy as well as running optional Q&A sessions which we will record and make available. These events are now live and open open for booking and we encourage you to sign up for these. 

As outlined in our previous bulletin we will be providing new unseen content for International GCSEs and International AS/A Levels to support the provision of teacher assessed grades in May/June.   

The schedules for the use of the new unseen content are now available on our exam timetables page

These test materials can be used in two ways: 

  1. As unseen materials presented to students in a controlled situation, in a specified timeframe, for them to respond to 


  1. After the specified timeframe, in the knowledge that they may be familiar to students, used as one part of the evidence that supports the teacher grade.  

Individual countries can choose to mandate these optional elements and will communicate their decisions directly with their schools. In countries where the Ministry of Education does not choose to mandate an approach, the decision can made by schools who will communicate directly with students. 

We will start to dispatch unseen content materials from 9 April for delivery into centres before 26 April. We will track all deliveries and work with you should we see any delays in transit. Please remember that these materials are secure until the dates specified as some students will be using this material under controlled conditions and should be treated in the same way as any other examination materials. 

To support the use of these unseen materials, we'll be offering an optional marking service where our expert examiners will mark your students’ responses. We'll mark the test materials and return a mark to you for your consideration when deriving the student grade. We'll provide you with support to understand how the mark aligns with performance descriptors so that you can be confident in your understanding of the mark. This will be an optional service and if you'd prefer to mark the materials yourself, we'll be providing mark schemes and training materials so that you can do so with confidence. 

Attendance registers will be supplied to all centres regardless of whether they are using the optional marking service or not. The registers will also include returns labels for those wishing to return papers for marking. Please only return your completed attendance registers where you would like to make use of our marking service, indicating any students as absent if you are not returning a paper for every candidate entered.

We will not be providing our usual stationery such as bags for returning scripts, if you would like to use the marking service and require returns bags, these can be ordered by completing our additional stationery request form

As we’ve previously let you know, there will be a quality assurance process that underpins the teacher assessment grades this summer.  

Every centre must produce a centre policy; this can be done by choosing to adopt the pre-populated template that is shown in Appendix A of the international guide. 

There will be internal and external quality assurance.  The external quality assurance will be a three-stage process:   

  • Stage 1 – centre policy review,  
  • Stage 2 – virtual centre visit (where required) 
  • Stage 3 – post-submission sampling.   

It is important that grades represent a holistic, objective judgement based on evidence of each student’s performance in each subject.  

More guidance about the quality assurance process can be found in the Pearson Professional Development Academy including a checklist to make sure everything is covered. 

As outlined in the Pearson and JCQ guidance documents, there is a recommended five step process to arrive at the grades: 

  • Step 1 – Consider what has been taught 
  • Step 2 – Collect the evidence from across the course of study 
  • Step 3 – Evaluate the quality of evidence  
  • Step 4 – Establish if the range of evidence is appropriate for all students 
  • Step 5 – Assign a grade. 

You will also need to ensure that the grades represent a holistic judgement and incorporate the unseen materials (if you are choosing to use these). The grading process this year is not intended to be a formulaic calculation and should account for the context in which each student’s evidence has been produced.  For tiered International GCSEs and UK GCSEs, your grade must reflect the tier of entry. 

Grade descriptors and grading exemplification must be used to make holistic judgements about student performance. Your professional experience and judgment will form a key part of this process and due consideration must be given to all the evidence collected for each student. 

Used appropriately, data on historical student and centre performance can help support the internal quality assurance process for assigning grades. The purpose of reviewing data on past performance is not to attempt to determine a student or a centre’s outcomes this summer, but as one source of evidence from examination series which operated as normal, that can inform teachers’ professional judgement on the level of attainment achieved by their students. You should be aware of the distribution of grades awarded to students in previous June series where exams have taken place. However, grading judgements should not be driven by this data. Historical grade data should only be considered after grading judgements have been made.

We’ve been listening to feedback from students, parents and carers and we know they are keen to be kept informed about the assessment process this year and any additional support that we’ll be producing to help them navigate the coming months. 

Our Assessment Director, Hayley White, has recorded a video that explains how grades will be determined this year and we’ve created a support page for students, parents and carers on our website. We’ll use this to provide information, support and guidance to help make the summer 2021 process more transparent, and it will be updated regularly. You can also download a  student-friendly timeline (PDF, 0.1 MB) that provides details and key dates for the awarding of GCSE, International GCSE, International AS/A level, and AS and A levels this summer.  

In addition we have a created a form so students, parents and carers can provide feedback to us or suggest any further support materials they may find useful.   

Please do share this information with your students and encourage parents and carers to take a look. 

In the last bulletin we outlined that the joint Ofqual and DfE consultation outcome confirms that for GCSE English Language, GCSE Modern Foreign Languages and A level sciences (Biology, Chemistry, 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 since been agreed by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and all exam boards, that the deadline for submitting the endorsement grade or result will be extended until 18 June 2021 in line with the submission deadline for teacher assessment grades.  

We will be aligning our approach to endorsements for our international qualifications, and so the deadline of 18 June 2021 also applies to the endorsements for our International GCSEs. Further subject specific details on endorsements will be shared in early April. 

We are engaging regularly with our global university contacts about the teacher assessed grades process and support for private candidates. We can now share example feedback from some popular destinations for Pearson Edexcel students. Some of this guidance has been provided directly to our Progression and Recognition team or is available on university websites. 

You can read more here
We know that universities and qualification evaluators remain committed to upholding transparency and fairness to all students from every curriculum around the world in these uncertain times.  

Universities are aware that students need reassurance that they will not be disadvantaged in their applications for admission and advance standing/credit.  

We have issued guidance for centres accepting private candidate entries for international qualifications. It provides an overview of the May/June 2021 assessment process for centres accepting entries for private candidates taking International GCSEs, International AS or International A Levels.  

To make sure that private candidates have sufficient time to make entries for international qualifications, we will be waiving late fees for private candidates up to 26 April.  

You can read our guide for centres accepting private candidate entries - international qualifications (PDF, 0.2 MB) here and is also available on our Private candidates page. 


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