GCSEs 2021: Questions may come from defunct exam papers

GCSE and A-level students could sit questions from pre-reform exam specifications because of a lack of past papers

Catherine Lough

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GCSE and A-level students this year could be assessed on questions based on "legacy" exam papers, from specifications used before the reform of GCSEs and A levels, which began in 2015.

Ofqual and the Department for Education have confirmed today that students will be graded using teacher assessment this year. Teachers will be able to use optional questions set by exam boards to form a basis for their judgements.

But in Ofqual's document on its final decisions after its consultation on grading, it says that for some GCSE and A-level subjects that were reformed later, materials from pre-reform exam papers may need to be used.


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The regulator has said that new exam board questions will be offered "in line with the secretary of state’s policy". But it also notes that "new questions would have untested mark schemes" and has decided that "most of the [exam board] materials will use past questions".

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Optional exam board papers

"Past questions...bring certain advantages – the mark schemes have been tested and revised in live marking, exam boards have data that could be used to support teachers’ judgements about grades to be awarded, and past student work could be used to provide exemplar materials," the document says, adding that boards would already have moderated papers for hearing-impaired students or in Braille.

The regulator says exam boards will provide schools with questions from past papers for each subject, as well as new, "unseen" materials. But for some subjects reformed later, there may not be enough past papers to use, meaning that materials from pre-reformed papers may also need to be included.

"However, for some subjects in the later phases of reform, there may not be sufficient past papers to supply questions to cover all of the content areas, and exam boards might need to provide additional resources based on specimen papers, legacy past papers (if appropriate) or provide new questions," the document adds.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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