This summer season has not only begun with sunny days and lighter evenings, but it has also marked the return to sit-down public exams for the first time since 2019.
Exams resumed last week as the main form of assessment, and while opinions may vary on the future of exams, there is no doubt that they currently provide the most widely understood model of assessment. The argument from the Department for Education (DfE), among others, is exams offer students the opportunity to showcase the knowledge, skills and understanding they have gained over the last two years in a fair and standardised environment.
However, it has to be acknowledged that this year those skills, knowledge and understanding have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and students across the country may well be feeling the pressure.
There has been some relief for students however to support their revision, provide a more level playing field in the exam hall and reduce their anxiety about the process. The DfE, Ofqual, Exam Boards and Joint Council for Qualifications have worked together to release a series of measures to help support students and account for potential knowledge gaps caused by the pandemic.
The measures are designed to ensure young people taking GCSE, AS and A-Level exams as well as some VTQs, are treated as fairly as possible when compared to pre-pandemic years. These measures include:
- Advance Information – Exam boards have provided information ahead of time on the focus of exams for most subjects to help students revise.
- Optional content – There has been less content or fewer topics for students to learn in some GCSE subjects.
- Supporting materials -Students are receiving formulae and equation sheets for some exams.
- Changes to coursework – Non-exam assessment and fieldwork requirements were adjusted, with flexibility in some subjects.
- Generous grading – Exams will be graded more generously this year compared to 2019.
While these measures provide support and reassurance for students and their families this year, the broad brush of exams is very much a return to normality. Students have been revising, will sit exams at school under exam conditions and receive their results this August.
Although there is much debate on the future of exams, such as whether they will go digital or indeed evolve into a new form of assessment completely, the outcome is some way off and currently, the sector is rallying around the students who are sitting exams this year, some for the very first time.
I am sure there will be a fizzle of nerves and excitement as students open their results on the 18th and 25th of August respectively, but for now, we wish them all the best of luck!