IGCSEs 2021: Exam grades allowed to rise to match TAGs

Cambridge International says it has moderated exam results to keep pace with TAG inflation to ensure system is 'fair to all students'

Dan Worth

iGCSEs rise by mixing TAGs and exams

International schools and their students have today received their IGCSE results – including for thousands of students worldwide who received both teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) and who sat exams.

The formal exams that did go ahead were part of the assessments offered by Cambridge International, which was the only exam board to push ahead with formal examinations.


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Overall, the organisation said it had issued results for IGCSEs to 182,000 students around the world, of whom around three-quarters sat at least one exam. A further 31,000 students in the UK also received grades, although these were all derived from TAGs.

Given the mix of exams and TAGs and the grade inflation TAGs caused, Cambridge International said it had eased the boundaries on exam grades to ensure a balance between the two sets of results.

“Grades assessed by teachers were slightly higher than in 2019, the last year exams were taken by everyone, so Cambridge International allowed exam grades to rise by the same amount to be fair to all students,” it said.

It said this rise accounted for between half and two-thirds of a grade higher than 2019 and was only “very slightly higher” than the totals from 2020. There is no specific data available on the grade levels awarded, though, as Cambridge International is not overseen by the exams regulator Ofqual.

The results come after much anger over the past academic year that Cambridge International was pushing ahead with exams, with students organising protests against the move and several nations issuing directives forcing exams to be cancelled and TAGs used instead.

Christine Özden, Cambridge International's chief executive, praised teachers and their students for the results achieved: “I would also like to thank teachers for their hard work and commitment in helping their students to achieve their qualifications.”

Meanwhile, results from Pearson Edexcel broken down by subject show several high levels of grades 9-4 (the equivalent of A-C) being achieved. The following shows the total percentage achieving between 9 and 4 and then the percentage receiving a grade 9.

  • Biology: 94.3% | 30.5%
  • Chemistry: 94.3% | 32.8%
  • English Literature: 97.8% | 23.8%
  • Geography: 94.2% | 22.7%
  • History: 94.6% | 24.6%
  • Maths: 93.9% | 29.2%
  • Physics: 94.7% | 33.3%

For many, the results mark the end of a tough year getting students to this point – not least those who were seeing their first cohort pass through the exam system.

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Dan Worth

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