A Levels in 2021 How will grades be awarded this year?

How has COVID affected this year’s A Level exams?

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has now formally announced how A level students will be assessed this summer. The formal guidance from Ofqual on how qualifications will be awarded in 2021 can be found on the government website. Information below correct as of 25th February 2021.

What has the government announced?

As expected, the government has announced that this year teachers will be asked to determine their pupils’ A level grades.

How will teachers assess A Level students and award grades?

Exam boards will issue detailed guidance to teachers and also provide them with training, but we do not know when this will be.

The government has also asked exam boards to create ‘Set Questions’ or ‘Question Banks’ to help schools assess grades. However, these are optional and do not have to be taken under exam conditions. They can be worked on at home and not under times conditions. 

Furthermore, pupils will only be assessed on the areas of the syllabus that they have been taught, after months of school closures and varying levels of educational provision.

What does this mean for students sitting their A Levels in 2021?

Each student sitting A levels this year will be subject to the testing and evidence-gathering regime decided upon by their teachers and school. Schools are already preparing to start testing children from when they return to their classrooms on 8th March.

Schools will want to support their pupils by having really strong evidence for the grades they give them. 

For students, this means that they may be subject to mock exams, mini-tests, timed essays and extra coursework from the moment they return to school. The work they have already completed this year and last year can also count towards their final grade. Each student’s portfolio of work must be submitted by 18th June, allowing maximum time for teaching.

Unfortunately for students this year, the pressure to achieve their grades will be brought forward. ‘Cramming’ or leaving revision until the last minute, as many teens do, will not be possible. Pupils need to display the highest level of skill they can, as early as they can. 

For example, if they are hoping to achieve a Grade A*, they will need to work towards creating a portfolio of their work, demonstrating as much of it at Grade A* standard as possible. This means higher order skills have to be attained now, not in the run-up to June exams as normal.

How can I help my child do their best in their A Levels this year?

Parents should aim to keep their children enjoying their learning, working on their subjects in a structured, organised way. Routine will help, as will having an appropriate space to work in. 

They will be missing their peer groups and the sixth form environment at school, both of which can foster motivation and academic camaraderie.

From speaking with our families, we believe that many Year 13 students have become seriously demotivated. The ongoing uncertainty has made their goal of a place at university or college seem impossible to plan for. Keep reminding them of their goals, and that they will need to have done well in their A levels to make a good start in their university courses next year. By this point in the school year, pupils should be aiming for two hours of study per night.

How can a tutor help with A Levels in 2021?

Our experienced, qualified teachers are experts when it comes to teenagers’ motivation. Over 75% of our tutors teach their specialist subject in London schools (currently online) and know the syllabuses inside out. They can mentor teens, building back their confidence and giving them the tools to succeed.

All Year 13 students will have suffered learning loss due to the pandemic. Our specialist subject tutors can consolidate their knowledge and explain difficult concepts that have been impossible to assimilate without consistently strong classroom teaching this year. We always work with tutors that are passionate about their subject and know how to make it accessible to students of all abilities.

a level student in a classroom

A level pupils will have to submit as much evidence as they can to their teachers this year for the grade they aspire to. This means for a humanities subject, for example, every essay written this year will go into their portfolio, counting towards their final grade. It makes sense that essay technique is as good as possible, for as much of the portfolio as possible, so that pupils can attain a grade that fully reflects their talents and efforts. Our tutors can develop these higher order skills, also standing them in good stead for higher education next year.

Learn more about our A level tutors.

When will A Level results be announced in 2021 and can I appeal?

A level results will be announced two weeks earlier than usual, on 10th August 2021, allowing more time for university places to be fairly allocated.

Uniquely for this year, all pupils will be able to appeal their grade and it will be free to do so. 


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For further advice on how to help your child prepare for their A levels in 2021, get in touch today.