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How are exams changing for 2022?

How are exams changing for 2022?

by Newcastle University

Starting to feel the pressure with exams just around the corner? Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, sitting a formal exam might be a first for you and you might not know what to expect.  

So, in this blog, we have pulled together a breakdown of what happens on the day, how A Level (and equivalent) exams will be assessed, and where you can find some support if you’re feeling a little worried. 



What’s changing for 2022?  

For the past two years because of the pandemic, grades have been based on centre and teacher assessmentsExam boards provided schools with support materials, including exam questions and mark schemes, and grades reflected students’ work, including homework, any mock exam results and in-class tests. 

Now that all lockdown restrictions and learning from home measures have been lifted, the government and exam regulators have been working hard to develop exams that are more formal, but still take into account the impact of the pandemic on your education and any lost learning.  

So how is it all going to work? Let’s break it down. 

Revision support 

Exam boards such as Pearson, OCR, AQA and Eduqas have already published details of exam content, called ‘advance information’.  

This means you should have a better idea of what you should be concentrating on during your revision and the main areas your exam will focus on.   

This information covers A Level exams, including maths, biology, chemistry and languages. However, there is no advance information for subjects assessed through coursework only, such as art and design.   

Advance information has been released by exam boards covering England, Scotland and Wales. But, at the time of writing, not by those in Northern Ireland. 

Changes to coursework 

Coursework and fieldwork requirements have been adjusted or reduced in many subjects, so there is less pressure on you.  

For example, in some A Level subjects such as chemistry and biology, the assessment of practical activities has been relaxed.  

If you are taking a BTEC qualification you will also have fewer internal assessments. 

Changes to exams

English and Welsh exam boards have increased the question choice in papers to reflect the likelihood of missed learning. Some A Level subjects – including English literature, geography and history – will offer a greater choice of exam questions, so you will have more opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. And if you are taking a maths or science A Level, you can expect to get sheets of formulae and equations to help you with your paper. 

Northern Ireland has introduced the option for you to drop an assessment unit and the SQA has removed or reduced some exam papers, too.   

What will happen on the day 

You will get a timetable detailing the location, date and time of your exams. Make sure you read this carefully. Aim to arrive at the exam location in plenty of time, giving yourself the best chance to start your exam in a calm and relaxed manner.    

You will take your exam under ‘exam conditions’ – that means, for written exams although you will sit in a room with your classmates, the seating may be spaced out or you might have your own desk. An invigilator will hand out the exam papers and you must remain silent during the exam. 

You will not be able to open your paper until you are told to do so, and you will have a strict time limit to complete your exam. 

If you need more paper, your pen runs out, or there’s a problem, the invigilator will be there to help you. Towards the end of the exam, they will also call out the time you have left to complete your paper. 

Practical exams will be conducted differently, but your teacher will prepare you beforehand and an invigilator will be there to guide you.   

Generous grading 

This year will see the return of grades being determined by external exam boards. This means at the end of the exam, papers will be gathered in by the invigilator and sent off to be marked by that board’s examiners.   

Examiners have significant teaching and examining experience which they draw on to mark your paper fairly and accurately.  

Exam boards also set grade boundaries – these are the marks needed to achieve a specific grade.  

This year, in England, Wales and Scotland, those boundaries will be more generous to allow for the disruption caused by Covid-19. They will be set at a ‘mid-point’ between the 2019 pre-pandemic boundaries and the grade levels used in teacher assessments of 2021. 

In Northern Ireland, that approach will be taken into account, with examiners’ judgement at the centre of the awarding process. 

 Safety nets 

In formal exams, there are also two other mechanisms in place that you might need to access:  

Reasonable adjustment (also called access arrangements) – when changes are made to an assessment to make sure you can complete it to the best of your ability if you are disabled or have learning difficulties. 

Special consideration – when your mark or grade is adjusted if you are affected by an illness, injury or event that was outside of your control when you took your exam.  

Where to get more help 

The return of formal exams has brought with it other support to help you show how much you know.  

Every school or centre will have teachers or exam officers you can talk to if you have any concerns. They can help in many ways, including: 

  • highlighting changes to coursework that will affect you  
  • discussing your exam timetable and any concerns you might have 
  • advising on what you are allowed to take into each exam  
  • outlining the extra exam support you may get e.g. formulae sheet  
  • advising on reasonable adjustment or special consideration measures 
  • explaining how to collect your exam results  
  • supporting you if you have any concerns about your results or think there has been a marking mistake