With so much time spent revising, studying, and memorising facts and figures, there's nothing worse for a GCSE student than to end up missing their exam. Unfortunately, these things happen: illness, family circumstances and even weather disruptions can often end up preventing you from attending those all-important exams.
While it's not the end of the world, there are a couple of steps you'll need to take if you've missed - or think you're going to miss - your GCSE exam. In this guide, we're going to cover everything you need to know about missing exams; from obtaining medical notes to re-sitting the exam at a later date.
So, what happens if you miss a GCSE exam? Let's take a look.
What happens if I miss a GCSE exam?
If you miss your GCSE exam, don't panic. No matter the reason you've missed your exam, you'll always be able to sit your exam at a later date. However, if you're wishing to progress to AS and A-Level and just missed an exam in one of your most important subjects, the process can be slightly complicated. But don't worry - we're going to break it down for you.
Missing an exam due to illness
With COVID-19 still circulating, schools have become accustomed to dealing with illness-related absences. If you end up missing an exam due to unforeseen illness (COVID or non-COVID related) you'll need to contact your school as soon as possible and let them know you won't be able to attend the exam. If your illness doesn't require hospital treatment, you'll also need to contact your local GP surgery to obtain a medical certificate, proving that you are genuinely ill.
If you fall ill while at your examination centre, it's important that you speak with someone as soon as possible.
Can I resit my GCSE exam if I'm sick?
Yes. If you wish to, you can always re-sit your exam at a later date. However, this can impact your academic schedule for the upcoming school year; you won't be able to proceed to AS or A-level in a subject without first obtaining an acceptable grade at GCSE level.
Can I use my predicted grade if I'm sick on the day of my exam?
In some cases, you may still be able to obtain a grade if you miss your exam: the exam board may grant some students grades based on their performance both in mock exams and during the school year. However, this is extremely circumstantial: according to the Joint Council for Qualifications, you will be required to have completed at least 25% of the academic coursework so far to qualify for this option.
Missing an exam due to weather disruption
If you're experiencing extreme weather conditions on the day of your exam, your school may call off the exam and reschedule for a later date. If the exam goes ahead but you're unable to make it to your school or examination centre, the school may arrange for you to take the exam in a different venue closer to your location where possible.
Where this isn't possible, you may simply have to retake your exam at a later date. If weather forecasts are predicting extreme weather for the day of your exam, give yourself lots of extra time to reach your destination, and let the school know in advance that travel may not be possible.
Missing an exam due to lateness
Late nights are common during exam period, making late mornings a regular occurence. If you're going to be late for your exam, contact your school as soon as possible and let them know that you're running behind on time. Depending on your school - and depending on the nature of your exam - you may still be able to take the examination even after arriving late, provided that the exam is still ongoing.
If you miss your exam entirely due to being late, there's nothing the exam board can do to help you out. You'll simply need to re-take your exam at a later date (and invest in a better alarm clock!)
Missing an exam due to personal circumstances
If you miss an exam due to unforeseen personal circumstances, you may still be able to still obtain a grade for the exam. If granted, your grade will typically end up being a combination of your mock exam grades and some grades from your coursework, but this can also change on a case by case basis.
However, your personal circumstances must first be deemed "acceptable" reasons for absence by the exam board: acceptable reasons typically include experiencing terminal illness, or dealing with a bereavement within your immediate family.
If you do end up taking the exam but were dealing with unforeseen personal circumstances at the time - you may even be able to apply for Special Consideration, whereby a small percentage (1%-5%) is added to your final result to boost your grade. The exam board will need to be convinced that these circumstances had a detrimental effect on your exam performance in order for special consideration to be granted.
Preparing for your GCSE exams
In some cases, missing a GCSE exam is unavoidable. In other cases, it can come down to poor planning, a lack of organisation, and a hectic study schedule that leaves no time for rest. To prevent you from missing out on your important exams and delaying your academic goals, follow these tips for a healthy pre-exam routine:
Get enough sleep
One of the most common reasons students turn up late to exams is because they've been cramming the night before - and losing out on important sleep! Sleep is absolutely vital for your cognitive function, and completing an exam while low on sleep is going to guarantee a less-than-optimal performance. Make sure to get around 8 hours sleep a night where possible, and leave plenty of time for recreational rest too.
Organise your study schedule
If you organise your study schedule efficiently and in advance, there won't be any need to cram the night before and turn up late to your exam the next day. Prioritise the subjects whose exams are the closest, and make sure you give yourself a set number of hours to study each day. Don't linger on one module for hours on end if you get stuck - move onto the next and come back to the topics that you don't understand.
If you're having trouble understanding particular topics, don't hesitate to enlist the help of a tutor. From GCSE science tutors to English tutors, having someone on-hand to ask questions and revise with can be incredibly helpful, especially if you're on exam leave and no longer have class time with your peers and teachers.
Plan for unforeseen circumstances
While some circumstances can't be planned for, there are always ways for you to avoid problems on the day of your exams. Check the weather for any adverse conditions, plan to take the earlier bus rather than your usual route, and make sure you get enough rest and sleep the night before the big day.
If you do end up missing a GCSE exam, it can be disappointing - but it's important not to let it get you down or affect your academic performance in other areas. Depending on the reason for your absence, you'll either be able to apply for a grade with the exam board, or re-take the exam at a later date.
This post was updated on 01 Aug, 2023.