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Takeaways from the U-turn on A-level exam grades in UK

August 27th, 2020 by

In the month of Aug 2020, the UK government took a U-turn on A-level exam grades that were awarded to High School students without conducting the formal A-level examinations because of COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s take a look at what has happened, chronologically:

  1. The UK government shuts down all Schools by 20 Mar 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. As the pandemic does not show any sign of alleviation during the next couple of months, the government cancels GCSE and A-level like exams in May/June 2020.
  3. With the COVID-19 situation still not improving satisfactorily, the government announces a series of decisions towards University undergraduate Admission for 2020-21. The foremost of these decisions is the announcement that the exam regulator Ofqual, along with other exam boards, will work with Teachers to provide A-level grades based on teacher assessments, coursework, mock results and a few other criteria.
  4. Another important announcement made is the restriction on the number of Students who can be admitted to undergraduate programs in Universities for 2020-21, to allow better pandemic fighting measures.
  5. On 13 Aug 2020, the Government announces A-level grades. The algorithm developed by Ofqual lowered the marks or grades predicted by Teachers by almost 40%, which causes widespread complaints. Ofqual‘s algorithm is criticized for penalizing disadvantaged students, and is termed unfair by many!
  6. As usual, Universities open phone lines to complete the admission process – offering remaining places on under-subscribed courses to eligible students, and to make the other necessary adjustments. Many students who were predicted to score better grades fared lower because of the Ofqual‘s algorithm, and their admissions are either put on hold or marked “conditional”. A great number of students suddenly lose confidence about getting the subject/university of their first choice. All these cause great unrest and panic among students and parents. There’s protest everywhere.
  7. On 17 August 2020, the Government takes a U-turn, and decides to award grades based on teacher assessment, over-riding the output from the Ofqual‘s algorithm.
  8. To address complaints from Students who got better grades because of Ofqual‘s algorithm, the Government issues another order saying that Students could use the higher result out of the two methods. Whichever is the higher one between Teacher’s prediction and Ofqual‘s algorithm, would be finalized as the Student’s A level grade. These decisions cause an inflation in A-level grades.
  9. Students who are unsatisfied with both their calculated grade and the teacher-assessed grades can take exams in the autumn of 2020, it is announced.
  10. To prevent universities from making sudden changes to the undergraduate offers that they had already made, such as changing a “conditional” status to an “unconditional” status, or altering entry requirements, the government calls for a two-week pause.
  11. Government removes the temporary student number controls that it issued earlier, to handle the inflation in A-level grades and other associated issues.
  12. Politicians calls for better flexibility by universities in admitting students to courses, to honor all offers that Universities have made to Students.
  13. It is feared that the increased number of Admissions will cause lack of capacity, staffing, accommodation and facilities, especially while trying to do justice to COVID-19 safety measures.

While the issues mentioned above are least likely to affect international undergraduate admissions in UK, though a lesser number is expected in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a couple of takeaways from what has happened in UK:


  • There’s no guarantee that a particular examination would happen as it is planned originally. So, let’s not rely on any specific examination for the desired result in our academic life!
  • We must take every examination seriously because its result could be considered to an unexpected degree for the final grading in unforeseen situations like the one we have already seen.
  • We must put our best efforts to stay in the good books of our teachers. Steady attendance in classes, consistent performance, sincere efforts to learn, honest behavior and a pleasant attitude are some of the vital aspects that would help us here.
  • Do not procrastinate. Stick to your timetables. Avail every chance like it’s your last chance.

judging ourselves
Let nothing discourage us!
Let us all learn well from the unforeseen situations that COVID-19 pandemic is taking us through!
Miracle Learning Solutions wishes you all the best!!


Latest update: Ofqual chief Sally Collier steps down after exam chaos!