Exams 2020: How To Appeal GCSE and A-level Grades

When is an appeal not an appeal? When it’s a 2020 appeal. 

Appeals will not happen as normal this year. Many parents have already received emails from schools telling them there is no appeal process and there is nothing pupils and their families can do if they are unhappy with their results other than apply to sit the autumn back-up exams. 

Here’s a our guide on how appeals will work this year. 


What will 2020 exam results be based on? And what are CAGs?

2020 GCSE and A level exam results have been calculated without pupils sitting any exams due to school closures in the light of a global coronavirus pandemic. Grades have been assessed instead using Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs).

Schools and colleges are all called exam centres, and each centre submitted two pieces of information: their centre assessment grade, and their rank order position i.e. where each pupil ranked in line with other pupils at the centre per subject. 


Where can I find out more on how the grades were calculated? 

We explained in more detail how this will be calculated here.  

Ofqual have Guide to Grading in 2020 which you can watch here


Can you appeal a 2020 grade? 

You can only appeal if they feel there has been an administrative error in the calculation of their grade – and only via the school. 

The school will then, in its capacity as a centre, appeal to the awarding body who has issued the CAG to see if there has been an administrative error.

This is what Ofqual says: “In line with the direction given to us by the Secretary of State for Education, a centre may appeal to the exam board if it believes the centre itself made an error when submitting a centre assessment grade or rank order information or if it believes an exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating a grade. We expect that any mistakes will be quickly found and corrected.”

In short, if a school believes they submitted the correct original grade and the correct rank order, they will not appeal on a pupils’ behalf. 

Can you appeal if you feel the exam board’s grade adjustment is unfair? 

No. The grade adjustment, which some insiders have said could see grades alter by up to 40%, will affect all pupils nationally and is not something that the school can appeal unless they have reason to believe there has been an administrative error. 


What happens if my son or daughter is unhappy with a grade or grades?  

If students are not happy with their CAG Grade, they will not be able to appeal. 

Ofqual says: “When consulting on this summer’s arrangements, we considered carefully opportunities for a student to challenge their centre assessment grades and position in their centre’s rank order. On balance, we decided it would not be in the interests of students or the fairness of the arrangements overall.” 

In previous years, you could also ask for a paper to re-marked but this is not an option as no papers were written. 

What students can do is apply to sit back-up exams which are scheduled for the autumn. 


What if a pupil feels there has been unfair bias against them by a teacher or their school?

The Ofqual guidelines say: “If students or others have concerns about bias, discrimination or any other factor that suggests that a centre did not behave with care or integrity when determining the centre assessment grade and/or rank order information they should normally raise these concerns with their centre, in the first instance; or they could take their concerns to the relevant exam board if this was the more appropriate route.”

Further details of this will be published at the time the final results are issued. 


When are the back-up exams and how do you apply? 

Dates for 2020 back up exams and details of how to enter have been confirmed by Joint Council for Qualifications:

• A-level back-up exams from 5-23 October (deadline to enter 4 Sept)
• GCSE back-up exams from 2-23 November (deadline to enter 18 Sept)

Pupils apply via their exam centre i.e. school or college.  


How will the back-up grades work?

Students who take the autumn exam will be able to choose between their predicted grade and what they get in the exam.

Ofqual has released this guidance on how the exams will work based on consultation. 


Is it true there may be a further opportunity to sit exams in January 2021? 

Depending on demand, they may also be a resit opportunity available in January 2021.


Will students who do not pass English and maths this summer have to sit the autumn exams?

As in previous years, students who do not obtain grade 4 or above in English language or literature and/or mathematics will also have to resit either in the autumn 2020 or summer 2021, or enter for a different qualification. You can read more about this here.

What if my son or daughter misses out on their uni offer? 

Universities have been urged to double check teachers' grade predictions with schools if students miss offers. A former board member of Ofqual has said top universities should check with schools what teachers originally predicted because a ‘significant minority’ of students are likely to end up with the ‘wrong’ final grades. Read more here

What if we enter another lockdown in the autumn? 

Currently, there is no Plan B if schools are disrupted further in the autumn. Head teachers in England have hit out at the government for failing to draw up contingency plans for exams.


And what about plans for next summer's exams? 

Nothing released on this – yet. Not even a Plan A. Leader of the head teachers' union, Geoff Barton, said it was "bordering on reckless" not to draw up contingency plans to compensate for students being unable to cover all the exam content to the depth required and what would happen if large numbers of students are unable to take exams next summer due to isolation or illness.

Help?! Where can my son or daughter go to get help if they need help or guidance on results?

We always advise going to the school in the first instance, each of which will have a dedicated exams officer. 

You can also contact the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline, which offers advice each year for students who have not received the results they had hoped for. The helpline is open from A level results day (13 August) until a week after GCSE results day (27 August) and can be contacted on 0800 100 900.


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