International school students preparing for IA level exams run by Cambridge International could have to wait an entire year to attend university if they are unable to receive an assessed grade owing to a positive Covid test that makes it impossible for them to sit any marked component of a subject.
It could also mean iGCSE students face the disruption of having to sit their exams in the 2021-22 autumn term amid the start of their A-level studies.
The current set-up with Cambridge International means that as long as a student is able to complete a “component” of a course – such as an exam or practical test – they are eligible to apply to receive an assessed grade instead of a full examined grade, if required.
However, if a student completes no components, they will not receive an assessed grade. “We cannot calculate an assessed mark […] where a candidate has not completed any A-level components in the exam series,” Cambridge International states.
This had led to concerns about what would happen if a student tested positive for Covid and therefore was unable to sit any of the component exams for a subject.
Now, new guidance issued this week for the forthcoming exam series has confirmed that any student who tests positive for Covid-19 – or has been in contact with anyone who tested positive – cannot attend an exam centre and there will be no alternative way for them to sit this exam, including in isolation in the exam centre.
“For the June 2021 series, if you suspect a candidate, invigilator or examiner may have Covid-19, you should […] tell candidates they cannot take the exam and should not come to the exam venue if they display symptoms of Covid-19,” the guidance states.
This means for a pupil relying on being assessed solely by exams sat over a short period of the exam window, a positive test would mean they are unable to sit these exams and so would not be eligible for either an examined or assessed grade.
Cambridge International said it believed only a “small number” of students would be affected by this scenario and they would have the option to sit them later in the year instead.
“We have confirmed that as long as a student can complete at least one assessed component of a syllabus, they will receive a grade. “Our June 2021 exam series will run from 26 April-12 June. We therefore believe that most students taking our exams will be able to take at least one component for each syllabus.
“In the small number of cases where this may not be possible, students will be able to take their exams in our November 2021 series, which starts in October.”
This, though, means any student who had hoped to attend university from September would, instead, have to wait an entire year to attend university after they had sat their exams in the November series and then received their grades. Meanwhile students in the years below would face the disruption of sitting their exams during the autumn term.
An international head teacher in the Middle East said the situation was “unacceptable” and questioned why they were not allowing teacher-assessed grades to be used in these situations.
“We have a number of students who will be relying on Cambridge subjects to progress to university and offers attached to these grades. If they have Covid or have been in contact with someone who has, this will be affected.”