NEARLY eight million exam results will be issued over the next two weeks in the largest exams exercise ever.
As well as 5.6 million GCSEs, more than 815,000 A-level results, 212,000 general national vocational qualifications and 150,000 entry-level certificates, exam boards had to deal with 850,000 new AS-level results.
About 24 million exam scripts and pieces of coursework were submitted this year.
Predictions of a repeat of last year's Scottish catastrophe where students received late and wrong result may be exaggerated. Awarding bodies are promising accurate, grades awarded on time.
But marking quality could be an issue as examiners and moderators have been stretched to the limit.
The annual claim that the "gold standard" has been devalued will no doubt resurface if A-level results, out on Thursday, follow the upward trend of recent years. The Qualification and Curriculum Authority's five-yearly investigation into standards, due before the election, will not now be published until the autumn. But the main media focus will be on the new AS-level and vocational A-levels.
Thursday's figures will show whether fears that students were overburdened are justified, but will not show the full picture. Only students who have chosen to receive certification for their modules will feature in the published results. At AS-level, that is about 70 per cent of candidates.
The proportion of students included in the results for vocational A-levels, where the poor January grades point to substantial problems, will be much lower because a one-year, interim qualification is only available in four subjects. The results come as new research claims that schools and colleges are being left to make up their own minds on how to run A-levels next year, creating uncertainty.
It says that government support for three-hour tests, while maintaining modular courses for some pupils, could mean exam timetables next year are as chaotic as the arrangements they are meant to replace.
The research by London University's Institute of Education and the Nuffield Foundation tracked the implementation of AS, vocational A-levels and key skills in 50 schools and colleges.
Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours from the institute have now produced an analysis of the QCA inquiry into the reforms and Education Secretary Estelle Morris's response to it.
The institute report claims that three-hour "rigorous" assessment sacrifices some of the principles underpinning the reforms, such as the flexibility of modular courses.