Image of Exam Arrangements in England for 2023: Sources of Support for Students, Parents and Teachers

Exam Arrangements in England for 2023: Sources of Support for Students, Parents and Teachers

In this blog, John Rees, teacher, trainer and consultant with more than 25 years’ educational leadership experience, provides an overview of arrangements for exams in 2023 in England, aligned with guidance from the DfE, Ofqual and UCAS, and also identifies sources of support to help students achieve their potential and progress their education and career goals.

The 2023 exam season is upon us again, and with it comes a number of changes to the way exams will be assessed and graded. Many students, parents and educators are understandably feeling anxious about what to expect and so to help ease some of these concerns, the DfE, Ofqual and UCAS have worked together to provide guidance on exam arrangements for 2023, outlining the steps which are being taken to ensure a fair and consistent grading system for all students.

There is widespread acknowledgement that the pandemic created significant disruption for schools, colleges and individual students, and so changes to exams have been implemented to ensure that students are not disadvantaged and are given every opportunity to succeed.

2023 exam changes

Additional support and protection are being put in place. To ensure that students don’t have to memorise as much, support materials, such as formulae and equation sheets will be provided in some GCSE subjects. Exams will be spaced out so the exam papers in the same subject will be distributed throughout the exam timetable. The modern foreign language GCSE no longer has to test unfamiliar vocabulary.

Despite any disruptions or changes in the quality of work produced due to the pandemic, national results for 2023 are expected to be similar to those seen in pre-pandemic years. Perhaps the most significant 2023 exam change is the introduction of grading protection. This means that there will be no ‘cap’ or set number of students who can achieve each grade, which will apply across all subjects and levels.

For the Technical Qualification (TQ) element of T Levels, awarding organizations will, apparently, be ‘generous’ when grading to reflect the fact that they are new qualifications. However, it's important to note that 2023 is the first year that results for the TQs within T Levels will be based completely on formal assessments rather than teacher-assessed grades, so results in some subjects may look different from last year. This means that grades between last year and this should not be compared.

Vocational technical qualifications (VTQs) are assessed by a range of methods, and so awarding bodies will use what are described as ‘suitable’ grading approaches for their qualifications. These organizations will take into account the grading approach used in GCSE and A level, where appropriate to the particular qualification, so students should not be advantaged or disadvantaged irrespective of the qualifications they take.

Resources offering advice and support

Many resources are available to support students and their parents such as Ofqual’s student guide to exams and assessments in 2023 which provides practical advice on how to prepare for exams, and a guide on coping with exam pressure. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) also has information about exams and assessments on its website, and the DfE has a blog about this year’s exam arrangements.

Looking ahead to university and other higher education applications, the overall number of university places available isn’t decided by the number of top grades awarded. Universities will take into account the grading approach when making offers, and admissions teams consider a range of information about students as well as their predicted grades when making offers, including the personal statement, teacher references, or other assessments. The DfE has a blog on UCAS applications and how universities are making sure that getting into higher education is a fair process, as well as alternative routes such as degree apprenticeships.

The National Careers Service (NCS) provides free and impartial careers advice, information, and guidance so that students have a variety of choices for their next steps. The Get the Jump content hub on the NCS website brings together all post-16 and post-18 education and training choices on one place, and the UCAS website contains information for students considering their options, from traditional undergraduate degrees to apprenticeships.

In summary, while the pandemic has brought about many challenges, the government and other agencies are taking steps to ensure that students receive a fair and consistent grading system for the 2023 exam season. With guidance and resources available to support students, parents, and teachers alike, students can feel confident in their ability to achieve their best results and move forward with their education and career goals.