In the United Kingdom, instead of sitting exams, GCSE and A-Level students were given grades based on teacher assessments in 2020 and 2021 because of the suspensions caused by Covid-19. As a result, a record number of students achieved top grades in A-Level exams.
This was reflected in the acceptance data released by UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). The data showed that the proportion of accepted students in 2021 that achieved top grades of at least one A* is more than double that before COVID.
For the first time since pre-pandemic, national exams will take place this year. Ofqual, which is responsible for exam regulation in England, has stated that they expect the grade boundaries this year to be lower than in pre-pandemic years. However, they have said the levels of grade inflation will likely be lower than those seen last year.
In efforts to counterweigh the grade inflation seen over the last two years, Dr. Jo Saxton, the Chief Regulator at Ofqual, has said that a profile that reflects a mid-point between 2021 and pre-pandemic grading will be used by exam boards to set the grade boundaries.
"This will provide a safety net for students, to reflect the disruption this cohort have experienced already in their course and recognizing the fact that, because of the pandemic, most A-level students won't have taken public exams before.”, said Dr. Saxton. He added that they are aiming to return to a pre-pandemic grade profile. However, Ofqual doesn’t think that returning to that profile in one go would be fair on 2022's students, considering the disruption students have experienced; therefore, they will aim to return in broadly two steps.
In addition to the boundary adjustments, advanced information about what will appear in this year's GCSEs, AS and A-level exams have been published by exam boards in England as well. There will also be a greater choice of questions on the exam papers for some subjects. The reason for implementing these measures is to aid students' revision, aiming to protect against lost learning due to the pandemic.
A similar approach of grade boundaries being set to reflect a mid-point between pre-pandemic and 2021 results has been announced by The Scottish Qualifications Authority as well. Northern Ireland’s main exam board has separate plans though, these include allowing students to drop an entire exam unit if they wish.
Stating that the government was fully committed to exams going ahead this summer, Dr Saxton said she did not expect this to change except in case of a public health emergency, which is very unlikely.