Latest update

CAIE confirmed cancellation of exams in the UK (18/02). Update due next week

Results of the Ofqual consultation are due to publish week commencing 22nd Feb. They have not committed to a particular day.

Ofquals decisions will only directly affect GCSEs/Alevels!

IGCSEs are not regulated by Ofqual so do not have to follow their edicts. We do know that Pearson and CAIE are paying close attention and will be influenced by Ofqual but we'll likely have to wait for further updates from the boards for clarity on the IGCSEs.

Entry dates for private candidates for JCQ Boards (GCSEs) and Edexcel IGCSEs are now 21st March. CAIE 7th March. Centres may still refuse bookings/say they are full of course. But if you have struggled to find a centre or your centre is saying no or pushing for a decision or a course of action it could help to mention there is a window of time yet and ask for them to wait until the grading policy for PCs is clear.

Exam Cancellations 2021

GCSEs/Alevels are cancelled for summer 2021

Ofqual have held a consultation into how to award grades we are awaiting results to be published near the end of February. There was a section on private candidates so they are considering us separately.

Edexcel IGCSEs are cancelled for summer 2021

They are awaiting the consultation response to decide on grading. They do not have to do the same as GCSEs. There is mention of a series later in the year.

They do stress the importance of being registered with a centre so if you are deciding whether to pay if you want a chance to grade this year probably best to confirm booking.

Although centre booking dates are now (or gone) the exam board entry dates for IGCSE are not until March 21st and there is flexibility to withdraw later. Information is under private candidates on this link. If anyone is being pushed for decisions by exam centres they might find it helpful to share with them.

CAIE have said (on 4/2) "(For the UK) we are looking at switching from exams to an approach based on teacher assessment. We will provide a further update next week."

Everyone is presuming the worst at the moment but we need to wait to find out how they will grade PCs this year. Both Pearson and Ofqual are very aware of the difficulties faced by private candidates and are also aware that many candidates don't use tutors or courses. This is why several options, including an exam option, have been proposed in the consultation.

In the meantime the most important thing is to


We would not recommend rushing out and signing up with a tutor/other service in hope of a grade. Hopefully, by the end of February, Ofqual and the exam boards will have come to some decisions. In the meantime, don't make any panicked decisions!

What happened in 2020

On March 20th 2020 the Government announced that all exams would be cancelled this summer and students in schools would be awarded grades. To say it's been a difficult time for home educators is a bit of an understatement. Few home educators were able to meet the criteria for grading. For those who did there were often extra costs and stresses

  • The exam centre was the crucial point in being able to grade this summer. A course provider even if they provided grades/evidence for home educators this year was only able to help if the centre was willing to work with them. Do not sign up with a provider solely in the hope of a grade without engaging with your exam centre first. There is a list of centres here who supported home educators this year.

Grading in Summer 2020

Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs)

What are CAGs? These are the way grades have been awarded for summer 2020 exams. The term 'predicted grades' is often used but that is not strictly true. So how will the grade be worked out for those who were able to apply.

  1. Tutors/DLPs put forward a package of evidence to the exam centre. A predicted grade would have only been one part, there would be invigilated mocks and other evidence of work.
  2. The Centre would have reviewed the evidence, possibly adjusted the grade and then ranked alongside other candidates. This was submitted to the exam board. There is information here that explains Ofqual guidelines.
  3. The exam boards then applied 'norm referencing' or standardisation processes. This will change the CAG up or down based on statistical information about national performance (so roughly the same % get the same grades each year- this is not new - as it is how exam boards set grade boundaries) and on centre past statistics. There is evidence that submitted grades were higher than would have been expected, an average of about 12% for A Level, 9% for GCSE and half a grade for CAIE so standardisation has always been an important part. The problems for private candidates are they mostly are completely "unrelated" education wise to previous candidates at the same centre and/or were using specialist centres which don't have a 'typical' cohort. Plus students going for grades this year may be less representative of the usual spread of private candidates.

On Monday 17th August the Government announced that students would get the CAG awarded or the standardised grade - whichever was higher. CAIE and Edexcel IGCSE followed. Previously released CAIE grades were withdrawn and reissued. The decision followed pressure due to the number of CAGs that had been downgraded

Ofqual factsheet on the standardisation of grades

Ofqual powerpoint on the standardisation of grades

Cambridge CAIE factsheet on the standardisation of grades

Why wasn't my CAG what my tutor predicted?

The centre had to have absolute confidence in the grade it put forward or it risked all grades at the centre.

Things a centre may have used to determine CAG - not exhaustive!

Tutor's grade. Mock result. Where the mock came from - locked papers or SAMs with answers on line? Was any of the work verified as the student's (invigilated mock for example). If the mocks/evidence was tutor generated how closely did it tally with paper styles, did it cover balance of qs or just short answers. Qualifications of tutors. Interviews with students to verify work. The evidence will have been combed over.

They also had to standardise, so compare one tutors grade x with another's. Loads of cross-marking, discussion, justifying between parties within a centre.

Also worth considering that from April guidelines were that tutors shouldn't give marks or discuss grades with candidates. So take into consideration when and context of discussions about grades. What was said in Feb/March may not be what tutor submitted.


The appeals procedures for 2020 were different to normal and vary between JCQ boards and CAIE.

The autumn exam series are seen as an important part of the appeals process. If you don't agree - sit an exam, appears to be the line.

JCQ boards (Edexcel, AQA, OCR)

Ofqual Student Guide to Appeals and Complaints

Individuals cannot challenge your school or college under the appeals process on the centre assessment grade(s) it submitted.

If you believe there may have been an admin error you can ask the centre to review and appeal.

If you believe there was malpractice there is scope to challenge but do read the above about why your CAG may differ from predicted grades/course marks from your tutor.

Some background into the reasons behind the appeals process.

Cambridge (CAIE)

Cambridge information on appeals

Basically these are centre challenges, not individual, and will affect all in the centre's entry for that subject- so a challenge could affect all grades- by going up or down.

Autumn/Winter Exams 2020/21

In England there was a full timetable of GCSE examinations which started on Monday 2 November and finish on Monday 23 November. A Levels start on Monday 5 October and finish on Friday 23 October.

For GCSEs and A Levels the student had to have been entered for the exam in the June series by March 31st in order to be eligible for the Autumn series. They are not open to new entries just resits and deferrals.

Edexcel are offered a full timetable of IGCSEs in November 2020. The arrangements are available to all students using international qualifications, including new entries, deferrals and students wanting to re-sit from any previous exam series, including the May and June 2020 exam series and are subject to demand. This was an additional arrangement for 2020 only.

Edexcel's usual January sitting iwas much reduced in 2021 offering just Mathematics A, Mathematics B, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

The Cambridge Autumn series was a slightly expanded version of their normal Autumn series available to new entries.

Grade boundaries were adjusted to make them inline with the summer's more generous gradings.

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