Letter from Ofqual regarding exams and grading this summer

Date Published:
Tuesday 09 May 2023

Dear Preit Chahal,

As we approach the start of the summer exam series, I’d like to express my thanks in advance to you and your colleagues for all the work that you do to support the smooth running of exams and assessments. I know from my conversations with students across the country just how much they appreciate being able to take exams and other formal assessments, so that they have the chance to show what they know and can do.

Resources to support you in preparing students for exams and assessments

Ofqual has produced resources to support you in preparing your students for their exams and assessments. This includes the 2023 Student Guide and a slide pack for use in assemblies or information sessions. We have also recently published our 2023 School and College Guide. You may also wish to sign up for the rolling update from Ofqual on to keep up to date with relevant news and Ofqual publications.

I have also written a letter for parents outlining the arrangements in place for exams and assessments in 2023. This is published on our website and I would appreciate it if you could share this with parents and carers.

Approach to grading in 2023

I would like to remind you of the approach to grading in 2023 for GCSE, AS and A levels. Grading is returning to pre-pandemic standards, which means that your school or college’s headline results will be lower than they were in 2022. That said, an allowance is being made so that overall results should be similar to those seen nationally in 2019. This means that a student who would have achieved a certain grade before the pandemic, should be just as likely to achieve that grade in 2023, even if their performance is a little weaker than that needed to secure the grade in 2019. Of course, it is not possible to predict where grade boundaries will be, because they change each year as the papers change, in terms of new questions as well as demand. As we advised earlier in the year when you were considering predictions, we advise that you consider 2019 results as your rough guide.

For those vocational and technical qualifications that are similar in structure to GCSEs and A levels, with assessments taken at the end of the course, awarding organisations will also consider the grading approach used in GCSE and A levels. This is so that students are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged irrespective of what qualification type they take.

Technical Qualifications within T Levels will be awarded more generously in the first year of awards to reflect that these are new qualifications. 2023 will be the first year that Technical Qualifications in T Levels are based fully on exams, whereas some previously included teacher assessed grades in 2021. This means that the profile of results may look different in some subjects, and it will be important not to compare them with last year’s results.

Results days and next steps

I know that many of you will already be turning your minds to results days in August, and your students’ next steps. It’s important to note that the supply of university places is not governed by the number of top grades. You will, of course, already know that students often don’t meet their predicted grades but are still able to progress as planned. Indeed, in 2019 only 20% of UK 18-year-old UCAS applicants taking at least 3 A levels achieved or exceeded their predicted grades, but 88% were accepted to a higher education place. It’s important that students and their parents understand this, and I would ask for your support in managing their expectations and reassuring them that even if they don’t achieve their predicted grades there are still lots of options open to them.

I wrote to you in March with details of actions Ofqual is taking to ensure the timely delivery of VTQ results in 2023. This letter included links to the new VTQ information hub to bring together key dates across different awarding organisations that your staff need to be aware of to ensure the timely delivery of level 3 vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) results used for progression to further study. Ofqual is asking exams officers and teachers in schools and colleges to work with awarding organisations earlier during term time, to ensure students receive results in August. Ofqual has produced a simple checklist to remind staff what they need to do to help awarding organisations meet the first deadline of 26 May:

I have included with this letter a message for you to share with your students.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish your students the best of luck in their upcoming exams and assessments.

Jo Saxton PhD
Chief Regulator

Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH
0300 303 3344" title="">

Message for students:

As we head towards the start of the summer term, I firstly want to take the opportunity to send you my best wishes in your upcoming exams and assessments. While I know some of you might be approaching your exams with some nervousness, that is perfectly normal. This is an opportunity for you to really show what you can do.

Where to find more information

Qualifications will help you to find the right pathway for you. The National Careers Service provides free and impartial careers advice, information and guidance and runs a dedicated exam results helpline for all students taking qualifications.

Ofqual has produced a student guide to exams and assessments in 2023 with more information about what to expect this summer. Ofqual has also worked with specialists to develop a guide to coping with exam pressure.

It's important that before your exams start you make sure that you understand the rules, including what you can and can’t take into exams. For example, you must not take mobile phones or watches into the exam room. Sometimes people will offer fake exam papers online before exams take place. Make sure that you don’t engage with these, because you could face consequences if you do. Tell your teacher if someone offers you an exam paper in advance of the exam.

Your teachers will be able to help you if you’re not sure what you need to do. If you’re not studying at a school or college, you should speak to the exam centre where you’ll be sitting your exams.

Support in place this summer

There is a package of exam and assessment support in place this summer, including formulae and equation sheets in some GCSEs, the spacing of exams in the timetable to give you time to prepare between exams, and protection in place when it comes to grading. The grading protection that we have introduced for GCSE and A level students means that a student who would have achieved a particular grade before the pandemic should be just as likely to do so in 2023, even if the quality of their work is a little weaker.

If you are taking a different qualification, such as a vocational or technical qualification, then it is likely you will already have taken some assessments. You may already have a teacher assessed grade from 2021 that will contribute to your final qualification result for example. For this reason, vocational and technical assessments and exams happening this year will take place as normal. Some awarding organisations have also put in place, permanently, arrangements that worked well through the pandemic, such as changing the timing or format of assessment and introducing remote assessment. For those vocational and technical qualifications that are similar in structure to GCSEs and A levels, with assessments taken at the end of the course, awarding organisations will also consider the grading approach used in GCSE and A levels.

Wishing you the best of luck in your upcoming exams and assessments.