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Will grade boundaries be lower in 2023? How GCSE and A-level results will be affected in the post-Covid exams

GCSE and A-level pupils across the country are entering the final days of their exam schedules.

Pupils have been warned that this year’s results will see a “step back to normal” after years disrupted by Covid-19.

There was an increase in top grades during the pandemic, due to a range of support measures put in place to mitigate against the disruption of school closures. In 2020, students were given teacher-predicted grades in the absence of exams.

However, now that the majority of these adjustments have been removed or scaled back, results in 2023 are expected to be similar to pre-Covid levels.

When are GCSE results day and A-level results day?

A-level results day falls on Thursday 17 August. GCSE results day is a week later, on Thursday 24 August.

Generally, results are made available to collect from schools and colleges at around 8am, but you should check before with your institution or teachers to confirm how and when to get your grades.

Some schools send their grades out by email or post.

How will exams be graded this year?

Dr Jo Saxton, head of England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, explained results would be more similar to pre-pandemic levels, after they were significantly higher in 2020 and 2021. However, she said that examiners would use data to set grade thresholds that are “fair to students”.

“As in any year, grade boundaries for every specification will be set by the senior examiners after they have reviewed the work produced by students in the assessments,” she said.

“But those senior examiners will be guided in their decisions about where to set grade boundaries by information about the grades achieved in pre-pandemic years by cohorts of students, along with prior attainment data. That means the 2023 cohort will be protected in grading terms if their exam performance is a little lower than before the pandemic.”

She added that, broadly speaking, a typical student who would have achieved an A grade in their A-level geography before the pandemic, for example, should be just as likely to get an A in this summer’s exams, “even if their performance in the assessments is a little weaker in 2023 than it would have been before the pandemic”.

Some of the adjusted measures from the Covid years have remained in place – including the spacing apart of exams, and GCSE students being given formulae and equations in some subjects.

Exams are marked by independent examiners using published mark schemes. Grading then takes place after marking.

In 2020, when exams were cancelled, the marking of A-levels sparked a furore due to an algorithm devised by Ofqual which was accused of discriminating against the nation’s poorer students and widening inequality.

In the final results, nearly 40 per cent of A-levels results were downgraded from their teacher predictions, and the Government was ultimately forced to U-turn.

As a result, the algorithm system was scrapped for 2021, when results were awarded based solely on judgements from schools instead, with “teacher-assessed grades” calculated using classroom tests, mock exams and work completed throughout the year.

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