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Exam Results 2021

Jamdougnut

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As some of you may know, it’s just under a week for GCSE results and even less than that for A levels now.

I’m currently awaiting my GCSE results, which I’m hoping will be as good as my predicted grades, since with those I’ll definitely be able to get into my school’s sixth form with those!
I know some schools didn’t do exams at all, but mine decided to go ahead with some sort of exams, which finished at the end of May. (Since then I’ve been doing some volunteering at Ealing hospital)

So if there are any other members awaiting their results- good luck to you all!!! And try not to stress out too much.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not too stressed mainly because I just think what’s been done can’t be changed now, so I just need to move on from there. And if for whatever reason I have to retake an exam (unlikely) or can’t do a subject I want to do for A levels (I do have reserves) then it’s already been determined. I’ll just have to wait for the day…

For the current Year 11 and 13, the past 2 years have been difficult for all of us, with lockdowns (and parts of courses being removed as a result), so let’s just hope we’ve done the best possible. That’s as much as we can do.

And for those interested, here’s how old GCSE grades correspond with modern ones:

(For those in between, it means in the middle e.g an 8 is an A/A*)
 
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brad465

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I expect Clarkson will keep up his long running tradition of revealing he "Got a C and 2 Us" and is now doing this decadent thing ;)
 

birchesgreen

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Clarkson is right though, not getting the results you expected isn't the end of the world even if it might seem so at the time, there is usually a plan B. I indeed did fail my A levels but still went to uni via the BTEC route instead and from there a degree.

The thing which will annoy me will be the usual cries of "The exams are easy now!" if results are generally higher. I work on A-Level and GCSE content for a distance learning college and i don't think they are any "easier" at all.

But best of luck to everyone, a nervous time!
 

Bevan Price

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Good luck to everybody. And remember, some exams are more a test of memory than of ability to do a job.
 

brad465

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Good luck to everybody. And remember, some exams are more a test of memory than of ability to do a job.
You do allude to a very key issue with our education system there, which is of course not the fault of any A-Level students: our education system doesn't do much to teach us about living life and tackling the issues of the world. I would strongly advocate critical thinking education for example to help us understand interpreting media behaviour, consumerism issues and more, but that's another issue entirely. However I remember it was available at my Sixth Form as an AS Level, but only around 20/120 students in my year (or any year) actually studied it, and it certainly wasn't part of my KS3 or GCSEs.
 

Typhoon

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Good luck to everybody. And remember, some exams are more a test of memory than of ability to do a job.
And remember, some too many exams are more a test of memory than of ability to do a job. When I took exams with the Open University, you were allowed to take sections of the course material in with you. They wanted to know whether you could apply the techniques that were covered, not whether you knew them. Can I recommend the Open University to anyone who feels that they have left it too late to get a higher level qualification or doesn't feel that University is right for them.

The thing which will annoy me will be the usual cries of "The exams are easy now!" if results are generally higher. I work on A-Level and GCSE content for a distance learning college and i don't think they are any "easier" at all.
In my experience, the exams have got rather easier over time, but that's because the pass mark got higher! You are now required to have a better all-round ability in the subject, there is less, if any choice, you used to be able to cram in one or two favoured areas, forget the rest and hope the right questions come up (there were certain bankers). I reckon I got 'O' Level Physics on the ability to derive and apply Newton's equations of motion and draw ray diagrams, it can't have been anything else because that is all I understood. Going back to the late 60s and 70s, you could get a good grade in at least some subjects with less than half marks, it was daft because the boundaries for the lower grades could be just a few marks apart. I believe your experience will have been rather more recent when things have settled down, and you are right for these times. Unfortunately, this 'exams are getting easier' goes back years and years and is just regurgitated every year by those who remember the halcyon days of 'rugger', the school cap (or beret), the tuck shop and smoking behind the bike sheds.

I indeed did fail my A levels but still went to uni via the BTEC route instead and from there a degree.
Congratulations, a reminder that A levels need not be the end of the road - although, as colleagues used to say, you hadn't failed, you had not yet succeeded! You will have acquired useful practical, transferable skills as a result. I taught at HNC and HND level and found many such students worked hard and achieved decent results or better, partly because they had the jolt of not doing so well at A Level and partly because they found learning by doing more suited to them than learning by being told.
 

daveo

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Clarkson is right though, not getting the results you expected isn't the end of the world even if it might seem so at the time, there is usually a plan B. I indeed did fail my A levels but still went to uni via the BTEC route instead and from there a degree.

The thing which will annoy me will be the usual cries of "The exams are easy now!" if results are generally higher. I work on A-Level and GCSE content for a distance learning college and i don't think they are any "easier" at all.

But best of luck to everyone, a nervous time!
It's interesting how perceived poor results are down to "lower teaching standards" whereas perceived good results are because "the exams have got easier" - why not credit where credit is due?
 

D365

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It's interesting how perceived poor results are down to "lower teaching standards" whereas perceived good results are because "the exams have got easier" - why not credit where credit is due?
Can you think of anything that's more "chalk and cheese" than Brits and self-praise!
 

Bevan Price

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They were still GCE's (O & A levels) when I took the equivalent exams. 45% was regarded as a "pass", but results were given as percentages (rounded to the nearest 5%). Each year, the results were rounded up or down, to ensure that exactly the same percentage of passes was obtained every year.

And, probably due to some kind of "memory saturation", I often got my lowest marks for the final exam in a series of exams.
 

Bayum

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It's interesting how perceived poor results are down to "lower teaching standards" whereas perceived good results are because "the exams have got easier" - why not credit where credit is due?
It’s always the way. Tories can never, ever be seen to be praising education staff: ever.
 

Mills444

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Good luck all for tomorrow, just one question have the DFE/ schools finally decided what a new GCSE grade 5 equates to?
 

Nym

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On the subject of exams getting harder, I do agree. But, the knowledge is becoming a lot less relevant. The education system seems to not be able to produce applicants with common sense (in terms of applicants I see coming across my desk).

On a lighter note, good luck with the random marks generators. You've already done everything you can.
 

Bayum

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Good luck all for tomorrow, just one question have the DFE/ schools finally decided what a new GCSE grade 5 equates to?
‘Strong Pass’. High C/low B.
6 would be high B/low A
7 A/High A
8/9 A**
 

Peter C

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From BBC News:
Top grades for A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have reached a record high - with 44.8% getting A* or A grades.
This second year of replacement results after exams were cancelled, has seen even higher results than last year when 36.5% achieved top grades.
Heads' leader Geoff Barton said it was "comparing apples with oranges" to compare these results with other years.
More than 200,000 students will also be getting vocational BTec results.
In Scotland, there were record number of Higher and Advanced Higher passes.

'Grade inflation'​

The sharp rise in top grades at A-level means that the proportion getting top A* and A grades has risen by almost 75% since the last time conventional exams were taken in 2019.

1628587383029.png

With more top grades and record numbers applying for university, it will put pressure on places for the most competitive universities and courses.
On Tuesday morning, the admissions service Ucas said a record 396,000 students have been confirmed in their first choice course - up 8% on last year.
"We've always said outcomes from this year were likely to be different," said Simon Lebus, interim chairman of the exams watchdog, Ofqual, but he assured students they had been "fairly treated" and grades, based on teachers' judgements, could be trusted.
  • Girls got more top grades, 46.9%, than boys 42.1%
  • A* and A grades in Northern Ireland, 50.8%, Wales 48.3%, England 44.3%
Exam board officials said the higher grades this year reflected that no one had a "bad day" in an exam and that students had "multiple chances" to show that they could do well.


Schools could use a range of evidence for grades, including "mini-exams", coursework and mock exams - with one in five schools having a sample of their grades checked by exam boards.
During the checking process, exam boards queried submitted grades in 15% of schools and colleges, but only 1% were altered.
National Association of Head Teachers' leader Paul Whiteman rejected warnings of "grade inflation", saying: "The results in 2021 cannot be easily compared to any other year."

Vocational option​

The Education Policy Institute said grades had been expected to be much higher overall, but of more concern would be "inconsistencies" at a local level.
Vocational exam results are also being published - and Kirstie Donnelly, of City & Guilds, said young people should "explore all the options open to them", including apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships.
England's Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, praised students for their work in an "extraordinary and challenging year".
"We should all celebrate their resilience and ability to overcome adversity," he said.
But Labour's shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said the government had not supported young people and "let them down at every turn".


The nervous wait for results is over​


Shivani was trying to stay as calm as possible before receiving her A-level results.
But it's good news - as she got the grades needed to study accountancy and finance at the University of Loughborough.
She says it's not really sunk in yet but she's pleased - and that it's strange not to have sat exams this year and it might seem more real if she had.
This year has been hard, Shivani says, and although she has tried to be resilient, it has had an impact on her mental and emotional health as she "missed being around people".
The remote learning helped her in a way - she lives with her grandmother and her family were very cautious - but she was upset when the exams were cancelled.
"There is still a part of me that thinks, I would feel more deserving if I sat the exams - but I realise it is out of my control," she adds.
There will not be any jumping around in a school hall or late-night celebrations for Abdullah, a student in Newcastle about to receive his A-level and BTec results.
He is self-isolating - another part of his year disrupted by the pandemic.

"It has been pretty tough to keep motivated," Abdullah says of a year in and out of school and with plans for A-levels that "kept changing every day".
He is waiting to see whether he has achieved the grades to study sports science at the University of Loughborough - but because of Covid, he has not even visited there yet.
The 18-year-old, who has been supported by the Villiers Park social-mobility charity, says his friends are worried different schools will have different standards for grades - and this year's results may not be respected.
But if the right results arrive on Tuesday he says: "I'm going to dance in my room - you have to be positive."

Finn says he in a state of "slight disbelief" that he's done so well, getting the grades to study law at Oxford University.
"Uncertainty has been the overriding aspect of this experience - but I like challenges," he says.
"There is a lot of talk about grade inflation and I appreciate that is a real concern - but ultimately in the circumstances that have prevailed, the alternatives would not have been fair."

-Peter
 

brad465

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I expect Clarkson will keep up his long running tradition of revealing he "Got a C and 2 Us" and is now doing this decadent thing ;)
Clarkson is right though, not getting the results you expected isn't the end of the world even if it might seem so at the time, there is usually a plan B. I indeed did fail my A levels but still went to uni via the BTEC route instead and from there a degree.

The thing which will annoy me will be the usual cries of "The exams are easy now!" if results are generally higher. I work on A-Level and GCSE content for a distance learning college and i don't think they are any "easier" at all.

But best of luck to everyone, a nervous time!
Personally I don't think it was one of his grandest tweets this year, although maybe an attempt at being less controversial:


If the teachers didn’t give you the A level results you were hoping for, don’t worry. I got a C and 2Us and I’ve ended up happy, with loads of friends and a Bentley.

1628629960894.png
 

Senex

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70% of entrants in private schools getting A/A* — what on earth do those grades now mean, and how are they supposed to help universities distinguish between applicants?
 

johnnychips

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As a teacher, I would suggest grade inflation, when it is based on my/their estimates is very simple. You look at the coursework, and if it is up to scratch you give them that grade. What you could consider is ‘well, they aren’t very good at sudden tests or exams, but they could do it’ so of course you give them the benefit of the doubt. Which is quite right under these difficult circumstances.

I just hope the students’ grades of the last two years are not considered somehow inferior or less worthwhile than those who took ‘proper’ exams. They have had a lot of challenges and won’t deserve such a label.
 

35B

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As a teacher, I would suggest grade inflation, when it is based on my/their estimates is very simple. You look at the coursework, and if it is up to scratch you give them that grade. What you could consider is ‘well, they aren’t very good at sudden tests or exams, but they could do it’ so of course you give them the benefit of the doubt. Which is quite right under these difficult circumstances.

I just hope the students’ grades of the last two years are not considered somehow inferior or less worthwhile than those who took ‘proper’ exams. They have had a lot of challenges and won’t deserve such a label.
That is my concern for my son, who got his GCSEs today. He's got mostly 9s, some 7s & 8s, I believe based on teacher feedback over several years that they're correct, and he is well set for 6th form and university applications. But he's got a double whammy to contend with as he progresses.

First, as a member of the class of 21, he's vulnerable to people looking at his grades and thinking "well, 2021, they don't mean so much". Second, he's doing subjects - maths, physics, German - where the content really builds up from GCSE to A-Level, and then again to degree level. The impact of the last 18 months means there will be gaps in his knowledge that he's going to need to handle, meaning more burden on his A-Levels.

I'm also writing as someone who believes grade inflation is a real thing, which has served students poorly over the years as it's both made them believe their qualifications are better than they really are, and left them bearing the suspicions of people who've been through previous rounds.
 

Bayum

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I'm also writing as someone who believes grade inflation is a real thing, which has served students poorly over the years as it's both made them believe their qualifications are better than they really are, and left them bearing the suspicions of people who've been through previous rounds.
And though I don’t doubt there’s an element of grade inflation I think you only have to look at the reforms the 2014 National Curriculum brought in and yet even with the tougher syllabi teachers are continuing to do their damndest to educate and pupils are still coming out with good grades. So though there’s an element of inflation there, the background is very much that of a deeper, more rigorous curriculum that children are adapting to and reaping the seeds sown by their teachers and hard work from the child.
 

35B

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And though I don’t doubt there’s an element of grade inflation I think you only have to look at the reforms the 2014 National Curriculum brought in and yet even with the tougher syllabi teachers are continuing to do their damndest to educate and pupils are still coming out with good grades. So though there’s an element of inflation there, the background is very much that of a deeper, more rigorous curriculum that children are adapting to and reaping the seeds sown by their teachers and hard work from the child.
Agreed, but having seen grade inflation myself (I did GCSE in 1989/90) by comparison with O Level, and watching relatives as syllabuses and thresholds changed in the ten years after I sat them, I’m very conscious of the discrediting effect that inflation has.
 

RuralRambler

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And remember, some too many exams are more a test of memory than of ability to do a job.

I agree, and another huge factor is exam technique, which in some subjects seems more important than the subject material itself. We do seem to be training kids to pass exams rather than teaching them the subject.

I hate to say it, but my son falls well into that category. He got a string of 9s at GCSE and 3 A* at A level. He has a good short term memory and his school were very hot on exam technique, hence the grades. But, ask him about most of things he studied, and he's no longer got a clue. He has very poor common sense and very poor general knowledge. He's also got very poor logical thinking despite his A*s being Maths and Science. He, literally, can't do a question unless he's seen a similar one and can remember the answer. If you give him a random question/problem to solve that he's not seen before, he doesn't know where to start, goes all round the houses and ends up completely wrong. But once he's seen the answer, he'll be able to do similar problem solving in his sleep. That's brilliant for exams where questions are usually mostly a revolving door of similar questions, so once you've worked through a few past papers, you're almost guaranteed top grades, but it's useless for real life where people have to deal with problems that haven't happened before!

But, that's just another example of politics where so many things are "marked" on arbitrary targets rather than the actual benefit/usefulness to society.

Just look at Blair's obsession with hospital waiting lists. Like the 4 hour A&E target. Good in theory, but a disaster in reality. If you missed the 4 hour target, you were back of the queue as you'd not achieved it, and with the target being binary, there was no benefit for the A&E dept, the hospital or Blair, for them to treat and send you home within 5 hours rather than 10. Nor was there any benefit, at quiet times, for them to get you in and out within 1 or 2 hours. Back in those days, we had various issues with parents, ourselves and son, so attended A&E more times than we'd have liked, and it became a standing joke whether we'd be out at 3:45 hours or whether it would be 7, 8 or 9 hours - there was never an "inbetween" instance where we were out at 5 or 6 hours! That's what an obsession with arbitrary "scores" does to a service, especially a binary one! A much more sensible system would be a points system based on time spent, i.e. a worst score for 7 hours compared to 6 and for 3 hours compared to 2, so there was always the incentive to do things as quickly as possible, not the mental attitude of "we've missed the 4 hours so he can wait whilst we concentrate on everyone else where we have a chance of hitting the target".

The main problem with grade inflation is the effect in has on people a lot older and a lot younger.

It's hot topic at the moment with Covid, so employers, Unis, etc know that 20 and 21 cohorts will, in general, have got higher grades in A levels. They'll therefore compare them favourably with older applicants, of say 5,10 years ago, who were probably at the same standard, but got maybe 1 or 2 grades lower. But memories soon fade. In 10 years time, employers and Unis will be comparing applicants who took their A levels in 2030, with those who took them in 2020, with those who took them in 2010 and 2000, etc. It's more common these days for AI to automatically sort through applicants using pre-set criteria, so if someone sets the criteria to 3 A* at A level, that's going to give a benefit to the class of 20 and maybe the class of 30, and will be detrimental to the class of 2000 and the class of 1990 and 1980.

I got my A levels in 1983. I got a string of D's. Back then, it was good enough to get me a place in a decent Uni, and get me job offers for a professional job. Today, the equivalent I'd need to get the same Uni course and professional job would be at least 3 B's, maybe 3 A's. That's grade inflation, pure and simple. No one in my classes got A*'s, maybe 1 or 2 got A's. I remember the kind of grades I scored in mocks and tests etc - usually around 60-75% - my classmates who got C, B and A grades were getting 80/90%. When my son did his A levels, his was told that an A* in Physics was a mark of around 75%!
 
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