GCSE and A-level exams 2022: What you need to know

By Vanessa Clarke
BBC News

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For the first time since the pandemic began, students are sitting exams across the UK.

Pupils faced major disruption to their studies because of Covid and are getting help to make up for lost learning.

When do exams begin?

Most A-level and GCSE exams begin on 16 May and finish at the end of June, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is slightly longer than normal, as there is a minimum 10-day gap between some exams - to ensure that if you become ill you won't miss all your exams in a subject.

In Scotland, National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers started at the end of April and finish on 1 June.

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Pupils have faced major disruption to their studies due to Covid

How will my grades be decided?

Grades will be awarded in the usual way using external marking, but exam boards will be more lenient in deciding the boundaries between different grades.

Exam boards will look at 2019 - the last year exams were sat as normal - and teachers' assessments of grade levels in 2021, and take a mid-point between the two.

The aim is give an extra nudge to students who would otherwise just miss out on a higher grade - and to reflect the reality of learning lost during the pandemic.

Exam results are expected to be higher than in 2019, but not as high as last year. It is expected that results will go back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

How will my exams be different this year?

Several adjustments have been made to the way exams usually work.

England

To help students prepare, students have been given more information than usual about what to revise. This was released by exam boards Pearson, OCR, AQA and Eduqas.

Student taking certain GCSEs have been given fewer topics to learn and will be allowed to use support materials - such as formulae sheets for maths.

Some of these changes will be scrapped in 2023. The Department for Education has already confirmed it wants to return to normal as soon as possible.

Scotland

To help students, the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) has taken steps including removing or reducing exams or elements of coursework. It's also offered guidance on topics students can expect in exams.

Wales

Qualification Wales, which oversees Welsh exams, has streamlined the content of exams and relaxed the rules for coursework. The Welsh exams board WJEC has also released advance information across a range of subjects.

Northern Ireland

The CCEA exam board, which covers most of the nation's pupils, is allowing them to drop an entire exam unit if they wish.

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Image caption,
Some advance information has been published to help students with their revision

What happens if I am ill for my exam?

If you are unwell and have a high temperature on the day of your exam, then the advice from the UK Health Security Agency is to stay at home.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you will be asked to fill out a form and your school or college will use this to request "special consideration" from your exam board.

As examinations have been spaced by at least 10 days this year, you will be able to receive grades based on the other components completed.

In Scotland, if you are ill, you can have an "exceptional circumstance" request submitted by your school, college or training provider.

What happens if I feel I messed up my exam?

Many people come out of the exam hall feeling they haven't performed as well as they had hoped. If that's you, then the NHS recommends having a chat to a friend, teacher or family member about what went well. Then try and focus on the next exam.

If you are unhappy when your grade is released, talk to your school or college. They can advise what your options are and can submit a request to the exam board on your behalf through the appeals process.

The charity YoungMinds say results are not the only measure of success. There are loads of routes to get to where you want to go, it may be a different path than you thought you'd be on.

When is exam result day?

England, Wales & Northern Ireland

A-level results will be released on Thursday, 18 August and GCSE results will come out on Thursday, 25 August.

Scotland

SQA results will be published on 9 August.