Exams 2021: iGCSE and IA-level changes revealed

Cambridge International will allow students to be exempt from certain course components - but will not give advance notice of exam topics, unlike in England

Dan Worth

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Cambridge International, a provider of iGCSE and International AS and A-level exams, has outlined a series of changes to reflect the disruption students in international schools will have felt during the 2020-21 academic year.

It said the “package of options” was designed to recognise that, across the globe, different nations have had different journeys through the pandemic and would apply to its March, June and November 2021 exam series.

The most notable change is that schools can apply for students to be exempt from certain aspects of courses, such as speaking tests and science practicals, under the following criteria:  

Exemptions can be requested in cases where teaching or assessment was disrupted by the pandemic where it required:

  • working with others in a way that wasn’t possible due to Covid-19
  • access to facilities or equipment in a way that wasn’t possible.”

It said a full list of syllabuses and exemptions will be available from 10 December on its website and schools have until 8 January to put forward suggestions that other course components should be added.

Deviation from England

CIE also said it was working to align its exams to England in order to reduce the risk of any unfairness between those who sat GCSE and A levels and iGCSEs and international A levels.

“We will ensure grades awarded for our 2021 exam series align with the England standard so that our students can compete fairly with their peers for university places around the world,” they said.  

However, there are some differences in how it is approaching its exam changes to England, the most notable of which is that, unlike in England, there will not be advance notice of topics that will be in exam papers.

They will also not be offering any reserve papers for students unable to sit exams in June 2021.

A spokesperson said the changes were designed to give students as much chance to achieve fair grades next year and that further changes could be introduced if required.

“We will continue to monitor the situation in the UK and around the world, and listen to feedback from our schools to see what further support they need. Our priorities remain the same, to keep students safe and make sure they can progress with their next steps in education as soon as possible.”

Future focus

The organisation also said it would work with universities to help them understand the changes being put in place to try and help make sure no scores on an application are wrongly measured.

“Our recognition team will be working with universities in all regions so that they understand our approach for 2021 to make informed admission and credit decisions.”

It also said it was still in discussion over its Pre-U qualification with Ofqual and would “confirm these to schools as soon as possible”.

The move follows the UK government’s announcement last week that it would introduce a series of measures for students in England – and those in international schools sitting exams set by exam boards regulated by Ofqual, such as GCSEs and A levels.

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