Update 2: Exams Cancelled? What's Next..?

Following the decision by all the International Exam Boards to cancel (for the most part) or postpone in the case of CISCE, students (and schools) are anxiously awaiting the promised details about how results will be determined.
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We have checked for the most recent updates from the Examination Boards and provide below a summary of the latest information available for UK curriculum, International Baccalaureate, CBSE and CISCE. We will continue to update this as further clarity is provided.  

UK Curriculum

Update – In an announcement made by the UK Exams Regulator Ofqual on 3rd April, the detailed process for the awarding of grades for GCSE, AS and A Level examinations was provided. This is largely in line with the information provided below and our expectation is that the UK exam boards offering both UK and international GCSE, AS and A Level qualifications will follow this approach.

The announcement from Ofqual states that Exam boards will be contacting schools, colleges and other Exam centres after Easter to ask them to submit, by a deadline that will be no earlier than 29 May 2020, the following:

A centre (school/college) assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. Judgments should balance different sources of evidence such as classwork, book-work, participation in performances in subjects such as Music, Drama or PE, any non-exam assessment – whether or not complete, the results of any assignments or mock exams, previous examination results – for example, for any re-sitting students or those with relevant AS qualifications, and any other records of student performance over the course of study.

The main additional requirement is for schools and colleges to rank the order of students within each grade for each subject – for example, for all those students with an assessed grade of 5 in GCSE Maths, a rank order where 1 is the most secure/highest attaining student, and so on. This information will be used in the statistical standardisation of centres’ judgments – allowing fine tuning of the standard applied across all schools and colleges.

To ensure that grades are as fair as possible across schools and colleges, Exam boards will put all Exam centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with Ofqual.  Ofqual will consult on the principles of the model shortly, but it is expected that it will consider evidence such as the expected national outcomes for this year’s students, the prior attainment of students at each school and college (at cohort, not individual level), and the results of the school or college in recent years.

The model will not change the rank order of students within each exam centre; nor will it assume that the distribution of grades in each subject or centre should be the same. The process will also recognise the past performance of schools and colleges. However, if grading judgments in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, Exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly.

Ofqual has also recognised that private candidates (students who have been home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently) are anxious to know how these arrangements might be applied to them. Heads of Exam centres have been asked to provide assessment grades for private candidates registered to take exams with their Exam centre and include them in the rank order where they are confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement.

Ofqual stated that it is exploring whether there are alternative options for private students who need results this summer to progress and for whom an assessment grade is not possible (where students have studied independently and have not provided homework etc. to the Exam Centre). Where such evidence is not available, Ofqual has stated that it may be necessary for some students to take exams in the autumn or next summer to get their grades.

Ofqual has asked organisations that represent universities and Further Education colleges to consider private candidates when making admissions decisions this summer. These have informed Ofqual that they believe that institutions will consider a range of other evidence and information for private students to allow them to progress wherever possible.

Cambridge International Exams

In an update posted on 1st April, it would seem that CIE is probably the most advanced of the UK Boards in terms of explaining how the process for awarding both GCSE and IGCSE, together with International AS and International A Level, will be organised.

In a statement, it explains: "Our approach will be to ask schools to collaborate with us as we make evidence-based decisions about grades for each candidate in each subject they have entered for in the May/June 2020 exam series for Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level and Cambridge Pre-U. We are now asking schools to consider what evidence they will be able to gather to support these decisions. The evidence should consist of examples of work candidates have done to prepare for their May/ June 2020 exams."

The statement goes on further to explain the type of evidence that might be available – stressing that this is not limited to Mock Exam results, coursework (complete or incomplete), and assignments. Students taking A Levels who have taken AS exams will have these results also taken into consideration. And for students who are re-taking exams, results from previous sittings will also be taken into account.

In its advice to schools, the Board notes that “Mock exam results are just one of several pieces of evidence to consider. We know students work very hard between mock exams and the actual exam, and performances can improve.”

In addition, teachers have been advised that they do not need to set students fresh work to gather evidence – for example, there is no need to set new mock papers, set assignments or ask students to complete unfinished coursework for the purposes of gathering evidence. However, if teachers are able do so and feel this would help the evidence to be submitted then they are free to do so.

It is crucial, therefore, that students take the opportunity to continue to show their abilities during the current period of home-learning.

Finally, the Board also addressed the concern of students who have entered the exams as private candidates, noting that they will “treat private candidates in the same way as school candidates, in that all the grades we award will be based on evidence.”

Where a candidate has not been taught at the centre handling their entry, centres will be required to investigate what evidence of the candidate’s work can be obtained and authenticated. Evidence from a candidate’s previous school is likely to be acceptable. Evidence from tutors will need to be considered in the individual context.

Schools may also withdraw some or all entries from the June 2020 exams and then enter these students in a later series such as November 2020. Schools can enter candidates for the November exam series from mid-May. The decision to withdraw students must be made by 17th April, or where students have already been withdrawn, they may be re-entered for the June exams by the same date.

Further details which are updated regularly, can be found here. 

Pearson Edexcel

Pearson is still awaiting guidance from the UK Department of Education and Ofqual (the UK Exams Administrator) before confirming the process it intends to use. It expects to issue this before 8th April. The updated information will apply to both UK-based and international schools and will cover I/GCSE, IAS, IA and A Levels, as well as BTEC examinations.

Further details can be found here.
For BTEC – information can be found here. 


The third UK Board operating internationally is also relying largely on the outcome of Ofqual’s recommendations noting that “Regulators will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with us and the other exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students.”

In adding a little further detail, AQA has said that Exam boards will be asking teachers to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received, if exams had gone ahead.

To produce this, teachers will be asked to take into account a range of evidence and data, including performance in mock exams and non-exam assessment (NEA) such as predicated grades, coursework and assignments. The Exam board will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July.

AQA notes that it is still confirming how grades will be awarded for private candidates.

Further details can be found here. 

International Baccalaureate

Whilst the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) may have been among the last to announce the decision to cancel the May 2020 examinations, it has probably been the quickest in terms of confirming the process that will be used to award both the IB DP and IB CP qualifications in the most detail.

In a statement on the IBO website, the organisation states that "The student will be awarded either a diploma or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work. The achievement will be based around the students’ coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigour and quality control already built into the programmes. We will be using vast historical assessment data to ensure that we follow a rigorous process of due diligence in what is a truly unprecedented situation. We will be undertaking significant data analysis from previous exam sessions, individual school data, subject data as well as comparative data of schools who have already completed uploading requirements and those who have not."

Schools will be required to submit the coursework for all students. For most components, which are usually marked by teachers and then subject to samples being taken and moderated, submissions will be externally marked worked by examiners.

At a subject level, students will be awarded a grade on the normal IB 1-7 scale. Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the Extended Essay and the Career-Related Programme Reflective Project will be awarded a grade on the normal IB A-E scale. The DP core will be awarded on the normal IB 0-3 scale. A total points score will be awarded for the Diploma out of 45, as normal. All schools will be required to provide predicted grades.

Schools are required to upload all internal assessments for every candidate enrolled in the May 2020 session except for the DP and CP core subjects, Language A subjects, Arts subjects and the Global Politics HL Extension Oral. For the subjects, samples of Internal Assessments will need to be submitted for moderation as usual. The IB requires this process to be complete by 20th April.

The IBO will use a calculation that is based on the relationship between coursework marks, predicted grades and subject grades to estimate the subject grades candidates would have received if the exams had gone ahead. If the relationship between these elements shows that in previous sessions candidates globally tended to achieve higher outcomes in their exams than for their coursework, the calculation used in this session will reflect that.

The IBO has also been clear that they expect students to complete coursework as originally required, though schools may apply for extensions (and in some countries, these have already been granted). However, the impact of this will be that results will not be available in July in these individual cases.

With regard to the MYP e-assessment which was also due to take place in May, the IBO announced that whilst the on-screen examinations are cancelled, grades for students’ e-Portfolio and Personal Projects will still be issued. Predicated grades will be used, in addition, to enable the MYP Certificate to be awarded. The submission deadline for the Personal Projects has been extended to 20 May 2020.

Further details can be found here 


Having originally stated in mid-March, after CBSE exams had already started, that those remaining would not take place, the Board confirmed on April 1st that “Under exceptional circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, any remaining CBSE exams for Grades 10 and 12 in the UAE (and outside India) have been cancelled this year.”

In a press release listing several “one-time” measures, the CBSE, said: “There are several CBSE schools located in 25 countries [including the UAE]. Each of these countries are [sic] also under lockdown and/or have decided to close down the schools for various and differential lengths of time. Under such circumstances, it is felt that the Board will not be in a position to hold differential set of exams for each of these countries. Also, in the present situation, it will be difficult to bring the answer books to India for evaluation purposes. Therefore, the Board has decided to not hold any more exams for the students of class 10 and 12 schools located outside India.”

It added that the system of marking/assessment for the purpose of declaring results would be worked out by the Board shortly and advised to these schools.

In a wide-ranging statement, the Board did clarify steps to be taken for students from Grades 1 to 8 stating that all students studying in classes 1 to 8 maybe promoted to the next class/grade. This advisory was issued in consultation with NCERT.

For classes 9 and 11, the Board noted that whilst some schools had completed the examination, evaluation and promotion process, there were a number of schools that had not been able to do so. These schools have been advised to promote students of grades 9 and 11 to the next grades on the basis of all the school-based assessments including project work, periodic tests, term exams, etc. conducted so far.

The Board has instructed that for any child “who is unable to clear this internal process, (in any number of subjects), the school may utilise this period for providing remedial interventions, and school may give the opportunity of appearing in school-based test/s, online or offline. The promotion of such children may be decided on the basis of such tests.”

Further information can be found here 


CISCE is the only Board to have has restated that exams have not been cancelled, but merely postponed at this stage - according to a statement on their website on 1st April. Their notice of 19th March remains valid with further details to follow in terms of the process that is expected to be followed and potential revised examination dates.

Further information can be found here.

What about exam fees?

The IBO is the only organisation to have explicitly addressed the issue of exam fees – though without arriving at a conclusion, stating that they will “provide more information to all finance questions raised in due course.”

However, feedback from schools with whom we have spoken suggests that it is unlikely that exam fees will be reduced or cancelled.

One Principal told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com:“In terms of exam fees, the current stance from the boards is that these will not be refunded as there will be costs associated with the new system which will need to be covered. It is important to stress that schools act merely as a collection agent in this context, as all fees collected are then passed on to the exam boards.”

Given the explanations so far from the UK and IB Boards in terms of the process of evidence gathering (for which teachers in the UAE will initially be responsible), and the subsequent review of the “evidence” that will be required (activities which will presumably be carried out by examiners), Exam Boards will still need to employ examiners to support the process. And since the way in which students will be “examined” this year may be very different from usual, the Exam Boards will potentially need to add an additional area of oversight to ensure consistency.  The usual process of producing and issuing results and certificates will also apply.

Given the complaints yearly about the variation in results from expectations, and the number of remarks or appeals that take place, if anything, Exam Boards could be facing higher costs.

We very much doubt, therefore, that parents will see any refunds as it currently stands.

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