If you were due to take GCSE or A Level exams this summer, you will have heard that the exams have been cancelled and you’ll receive your results based on what you’ve achieved so far…but there’s lots more to the issue than just picking up your results!

We’ve tried to answer a few of the most common questions here:

Why were physical exams cancelled?

In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, on the 20th March 2020, the UK government chose to close all educational settings including nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.

As a result, with no obvious resolution to the pandemic before the end of the summer term, and to avoid uncertainty, the decision was made to cancel physical GCSE, iGCSE, International Baccalaureate, and A Level exams and award qualifications based on achievement so far.

This means that all exam centres, whether they are based in schools, private centres or otherwise, will not be running exams in the summer for any subject or module.

How will my results be calculated?

As you might be aware, you will receive a calculated grade, known as the “centre assessment grade”, based on what you have achieved so far. This could include any mock exams you’ve taken, the work you’ve produced in class as well as the grade your teacher estimates you would have gone on to achieve, if you had taken the exam as planned. Your teachers will also use the past exam performance of pupils from your school to decide on your grade.

It’s also important to note that the grade you are awarded, might not necessarily be the same as your predicted grade, and will be a reflection on your progress up to when schools closed. Furthermore, any work you complete after schools closed is unlikely to count towards your grade, due to the circumstances that work has been completed in.

Full details on what teachers will be using to provide your centre assessment grade can be found here.

You teacher will submit this grade to your exam board, who will then standardise results, to ensure fairness across different schools and to avoid grade inflation.

Your results will then be released on the expected results days of 13th August 202 for A Levels, and 20th August 2020 for GCSE.

To make the process of awarding qualification grades as fair as possible, and to avoid circumstances of bias, consultation has taken place through Ofqual (the qualifications regulator) to gain further insight to the awarding process, and final arrangements for the awarding of grades will announced shortly.

Despite this, you may feel your awarded grades don’t reflect what you would have gone on to achieve, and in these circumstances, you’ll be able to appeal and/or take the physical exam at a later date. This is expected to be either in the Autumn or in the next summer exam period after that, in 2021.

I’m taking my exams as an external candidate; help!

If you are a home educated student, or taking A Level or GCSE exams as an external candidate,  and an exam centre has accepted you as a candidate, and is confident that they have seen enough of your work to be confident of giving you a centre assessment grade, then they are able to do so and you should receive your qualification as expected.

However, this might not be possible for all external candidates, and in these circumstances, you would need to sit the exam in the next sitting of the exams, either in the autumn or summer 2021.
If you are unable to receive a grade and were hoping to progress onto higher education, then universities have been asked to consider other evidence and information for basis of admission.

How will this affect my university application?

The qualification grades that are awarded will hold the same standing as if you had taken the physical exam, and as such, they will be accepted by all institutions. As a result, the admissions cycle is unlikely to be disrupted.

If you’ve received an unconditional offer through UCAS, then this will still stand as it means you’ve met the admission requirements, however, no new unconditional offers are likely to be made in order to not place undue pressure on applicants.

Similarly, if you have been given conditional offers, the normal process applies. Full details on what to expect on A Level results day can be found here.

If, after receiving your calculated grade, you think you might want to take the physical exam to improve on the awarded result, it’s important to contact your firm and insurance choice universities, to find out how to move forward. The opportunity to sit exams is likely to be in the autumn, and universities will be as flexible as possible in making admission decisions, with a range of options that might be available to you depending on your awarded calculated grade and circumstances.

I’m a vocational student; am I affected?

If you are taking vocational qualifications necessary for progression onto Higher Education, such as some BTECs, it’s likely that your result will be calculated on your progress so far, and your results are expected to be available by A Level results day (13th August), although you should check with your school or training provider for confirmation relevant to your circumstances.

For some qualifications and subjects, such as those that need demonstration of practical competence, you won’t be able to receive a calculated result. Ofqual is currently working with awarding bodies that offer qualifications in these areas/subjects to determine if changes to assessment can be made, in order to award the qualifications. Only at a last resort will assessment be entirely cancelled.

Similar to GCSE and A Levels, if you are unhappy with a calculated result, there will be an option to appeal to your awarding body.


The current pandemic has provided a number of challenges to everyone, and if you were due to take qualifications this year, this might have proved especially unsettling. Whilst there has been significant disruption to education, every organisation involved in teaching and awarding qualifications has worked hard in unprecedented times to provide the best possible outcome for all students due to take exams or enter into university.

We’ve covered some of the main issues here, however, if you are at all worried about what the changes mean for you on a personal level, the best point of call is to get in touch with your teachers or universities to discuss your circumstances and options further.