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Changes to GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022

04 Oct 2021

On 30 September the DfE and Ofqual published the outcomes of their joint consultation on proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022. 

In this article we summarise the decisions made and their impact upon exams officers.

Results days

The NAEO welcomes the decision to return results days for exams next year to their normal format, with AS and A levels being released on 18 August, and GCSEs on 25 August.

We thank the DfE for considering the issues which the NAEO raised over staging both AS/A level and GCSE results during the same week. The most significant of these included the increased possibility of inadvertent centre malpractice as exams office staff deal with the downloading and disseminating of results and dealing with post-results enquiries (including priority requests for Reviews of Results and Access to Scripts services) across GCSEs, AS and A levels during the same week, and the increased workload – and stress – placed upon exams officers in centres which deliver these, and other Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications.

Results for vocational qualifications (VTQs) used to progress in a similar way will be issued on or before the same days, and other VTQs results will continue to be issued throughout the year.

Exams - Advance information

Exam boards will provide advance information about the focus of the content of the exams for all GCSE, AS and A level subjects (except GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography) for the summer 2022 exams. The advance information will meet the principles set out in the consultation document.

The policy intention of providing advance information is that it will support students’ revision. Therefore, the DfE has confirmed that the planned release date will be 7 February 2022. DfE has also decided to retain the flexibility for advance information to be deployed at other points ahead of 7 February 2022 if circumstances require. At least a week’s notice will be given if it is decided that advance information will be released earlier than 7 February 2022.

Exams officers will need to be aware of their involvement in this process, if any, and if they are required to manage and/or administer this advance information, considering the following:

  • How will this information be provided by exams boards?

  • How must it be stored? Whether this will place extra demands upon the secure storage facility/capacity

  • How and when should this information be disseminated to teaching staff and/or students?

Exams – Support materials

Students will be given a formulae sheet for GCSE mathematics in summer 2022. Exam boards will provide copies of the formulae sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the formulae sheet will be provided in the exams.

Students will be given a revised equation sheet for GCSE physics and combined science in summer 2022, covering all the equations required in the subject content. Exam boards will provide copies of the equation sheet for use in teaching and to ensure that students are familiar with it prior to the exams. Clean copies of the equation sheet will be provided in the exams.

Exams officers will need to be aware of several factors relating to the use of formulae and equation sheets during examinations. These will include:

  • When will they be dispatched by awarding bodies? Will sheets used in teaching and learning be sent to teachers via the exams officer? Will sheets to be used during the examination be dispatched with question papers in the relevant subject?

  • What impact will these additional materials have upon the secure storage facility/capacity?

  • How will these sheets be disseminated at the start of an examination? Will centres require a subject matter expert/teacher who teaches the subject to issue any subject-related information/instructions?

  • How will these sheets be disposed of at the end of the examination? Will they need to be sent with scripts if rough working has taken place on them? Or should they be disposed of securely and confidentially?

Subject matter/Content

There will be optional topics and content in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography. Ofqual will require exam boards to change how they assess these subjects to reflect the expected changes to the way the subject content is assessed, as proposed in the consultation.

Centres will be allowed to deliver practical work in GCSE biology, chemistry, physics, combined science, geology, and astronomy, AS level biology, chemistry, physics and geology, and AS and A level environmental science by demonstration. DfE do encourage centres to continue to make available hands-on practical activities for their students wherever possible. This does not require changes to the assessment arrangements that the exam boards have in place for each of these specifications.

Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC)

Centres will be allowed to assess the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required to enable students to demonstrate their competence in A level biology, chemistry, physics, and geology.

Exam boards can carry out remote monitoring of centres’ application of the CPAC.

Art & Design

Students taking GCSE, AS and A level art and design will be assessed on their portfolio only.

Contingency arrangements

As the DfE and Ofqual have launched a joint consultation on the proposals for contingency arrangements for the award of GCSE, AS, A level, Project and AEA qualifications in 2022, there is no confirmation at this stage of the plans that are in place to support the taking of exams even if further disruption to education occurs and the arrangements for awarding Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) in the unlikely event that exams are not able to go ahead as planned.

Summer 2022 exams timetables

Following confirmation of the intended approach to grading, along with examination and assessment adaptations for GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022, exam boards are expected to publish their finalised summer 2022 timetables this month.

JCQ’s summer 2022 key dates document, covering the whole spectrum of examination administration, is expected to be published as soon as possible this term.

Key documents

Department for Education (DfE)




Examinations Officers Services Community Interest Company (CIC), T/A National Association of Examinations Officers. Company number: 13441956.

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