A-Levels and Coronavirus: How Students are Affected

Schools out for summer! Ok, not quite, but from the 18th March 202, the UK government officially announced that all GCSE and A-Level exams will be cancelled this year with immediate effect. Extended Project Qualifications and Advanced Extension Awards are included also.

A-Levels are two-stage qualifications that last 2 years, that’s a lot of build-up for no end result. Many students will pace themselves with the aim of making a final push for the end of year exam period – cancellation has presented many unique problems for students that now feel left in the dark.

Students have been extremely stressed over their futures with many left confused about whether or not they’ll be able to fulfil their expectations to head to the universities they want this year.

The Department of Education and Ofqual finally formulated plans to generate predictive grades from student’s coursework, homework and mock exams but it’s not perfect. This is tricky and relies on the judgement of teachers up and down the country. Whether it is fair or not for now is immaterial – it’s happening and it’s best to learn exactly what’s happening to prepare yourself on what happens next.

How Results will be Calculated

Teachers have been asked to grade students based on their work and progress. They will work with heads of departments and other teachers collaboratively to use their professional judgement to come to the fairest most objective grades possible.

The grading process involves two stages, firstly students must be awarded a grade each and then within each grade, students must be ranked to help define and standardise boundaries. Exam boards will moderate results to adjust for when teachers are found to be generous or harsh, hopefully unifying results to become as objective as possible.

What are the Criteria?

The marking criteria vary but it doesn’t disclude any element of study. Here are some of the main criteria:

  • Classwork and homework set and completed over the year of assessment
  • Participation in performance (for music and drama) or sporting events for sport and P.E
  • Coursework completed as part of the A-Level
  • Prior exam attainment at AS or GCSE
  • Mock exams

Any factors that affected a student’s study, e.g. illness, will also have to be taken into account to moderate grades to that effect.

What About Independent Students?

Independent, privately tutored students, mature students and the home-schooled will have to report to the centre at which they’re registered who’ll be able to give them a grade. In the case that they are not registered to a centre, sufficient proof of work will have to be provided to a new centre. In the rare case that work is not deemed sufficient or detailed enough, independent students will have to resit exams in autumn or summer 2021.

Deadlines and Results

The deadline for teachers to submit results is the 29th of May. Results day has been confirmed by the Department of Education to remain on the 16th of August.

What About Appeals?

There will be an appeals process in place where students can contact examination boards for moderation and recalculation of results. Ofqual is planning on clarifying how and when this will happen so try and keep up to date with their announcements come results day.


Many students will be determined to take exams and they will still be able to do so. Perhaps you have been pacing yourself and were preparing for a final attack to pull your grades up, or maybe you missed some deadlines or didn’t perform as well as you’d like over the year and wanted to redeem yourself.

In this scenario and if you are left disappointed by your eventual results, your best chance is to sit exams in the autumn. This may mean you have to defer a year to get your first-choice universities, though some may accept you for late entry upon certain conditions and are being encouraged to do so. At the end of the day, universities don’t want admissions to drop so it’s in their best interests to be flexible. 

It is proposed that exams taking place in autumn 2020 will be marked by Christmas to give students the ability to join university in January. You must check with your university to see if late entry is possible and whether it’ll be under the condition you achieve a certain grade.

If your resit grade is worse than your given grade then don’t worry – only the highest will be legally binding.

The only remaining option would be to take a gap year and resit in summer 2021, the same time you would have this year. This does give students a unique opportunity to excel themselves if they don’t mind taking a gap year and want to give themselves the maximal opportunity to achieve the highest grades they’re capable of.