GCSE and A-Level exams were significantly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns meant that predicted grades were used instead. When students were able to sit their exams again, extra precautions were put in place, such as wearing masks. The good news is that all exams are returning to near-normal arrangements next summer. There is a transition back to pre-pandemic exam arrangements.
This blog looks at everything students need to know about GCSE and A-Levels exams in 2023. This includes what will go back to normal, what arrangements will change and whether available student support has been affected. If you need guidance preparing for your exams, you can find a tutor for exam preparation, such as a Maths A-Level tutor.
GCSE and A-Level exam timetable in 2023
The GCSE exams timetable for 2023 will run from Monday 15 May to Wednesday 21 June.
The specific date for each exam depends on the dates set by the exam board. They may change nearer the time so it's a good idea to check periodically. Follow the link for the exam dates of the GCSE Maths, Science and English.
Your school will decide the dates of non-exam assessments, such as speaking tests for Modern Foreign Languages and practice performances for Music. You can ask the relevant department head for these assessment dates.
The A-Levels timetable for students taking exams is more specific and varies depending on the exam board. The current exam dates for the main exam boards for A-Levels are listed below:
- AQA - Exams run from 15 May - 23 June (28 June is a contingency day in case an examination needs to be rescheduled in exceptional circumstances)
- OCR - Exams run from 15 May - 26 June (28 June is a contingency day)
- Pearson - Exams run from 15 May - 27 June
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) is considering the exam timetable for 2023. Space between exams was built into the exam timetable in 2022 and was positively received by students and teachers. It reduces the chances of students missing exams, such as with illness. The JCQ is looking to maintain this space if possible.
Back to pre-pandemic grading in 2023 exams
The education regular Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) has said that grade marking will return to pre-pandemic grades for exams and assessments from 2023 onwards (see below for full information).
There will also be a return to the 2019 arrangements for non-exam assessments, fieldwork and practical sciences. Schools and colleges in the academic year 2022-2023 will now be teaching the full content of qualifications in all subjects for GCSE and A-Level exams.
Ofqual has also said that assessments for Vocational Technical Qualifications (VTQ) should return to the 2019 standard and remove changes made during the pandemic. A VTQ is a practical, work-related qualification for those over 16. Any institution that awards Vocational Technical Qualifications needs to adopt the same pre-pandemic approach used in GCSE and A-Level grading so that students taking VTQs are not advantaged or disadvantaged in comparison.
A Level and GCSE Exam grading for 2023
Ofqual has decided to return to pre-pandemic grading for students in 2023 after senior examiners looked at the grades achieved by students in 2022. The grade boundaries have been returned to roughly where they were in 2019. The chief regular, Dr Jo Saxton, said this is "an important step back towards normality. Our plans for 2023 take us a step further, while also recognising the impact of Covid."
The last sentence from Dr Saxton is significant: she stressed there will be "some protection against any impact of Covid-19 disruption" and that it's important to give some protection to the current year group: "Our approach to grading in 2023 will provide a soft landing for students as we continue the process of taking the exam system back to normal."
In general, the grades for A-Level and GCSE exams in 2023 are expected to be higher than they were in 2019. However, they will be lower than in 2022 because the grade boundaries are being changed after they were relaxed during the pandemic.
Focus on fairness
The Department for Education and Ofqual has stressed that the changes will be fair for the students taking exams in 2023.
Ofqual is aware that education was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. They lowered exam marking thresholds for these students so they wouldn't be penalised. The regular is reviewing the 2022 grades before deciding whether to bring exam marking standards back to where they were in 2019.
The Education Secretary Kit Malthouse has said students “expect fairness in exams and grading arrangements, which is why we are transitioning back to pre-pandemic normality. Schools are doing a great job in supporting students to catch up and get back on track, including through the National Tutoring Programme, which continues to provide one-to-one or small group tuition to students that need extra help.”
The government and Ofqual are recommending that schools gather evidence about how they would normally prepare students for exams. This is to ensure they are prepared if another situation like the Covid pandemic arises, where it's unsafe or unfair for students to sit exams.
Results day for A-Level and GCSE
The GCSE exam results day will be 24 August 2023.
The AS and A-Level exam results day will be 17 August 2023.
You can appeal if you are unhappy with your results and believe you have been marked unfairly. Reasons for appeal include a marking mistake or an exam administration error. You need to request the paper and ask for a review of the marking, which means another examiner will mark the paper.
The deadline to request a priority review of marking is 31 August for GCSE and 7 September for A-Level. Follow the link for more information about appealing your exam results.
Ofqual has decided that students will not be provided with advance information on what each exam will focus on. The regulator says the decision not to give advanced knowledge of the exam contents is because the cohort of students taking exams have experienced less disruption compared to the previous two years.
However, there will be revision material provided for particular subjects, which will give an indication of what topics your revision should include. For example, there will be formulae and equations sheets for support in GCSE Mathematics, Physics and Combined Science exams.
The government is also investing approximately £5 billion to support students whose education was affected by the Covid pandemic. This includes £1.5 billion invested in tutoring programmes and nearly £2 billion in school funding.
This post was updated on 01 Aug, 2023.