It has been a difficult few years for pupils, and as such the exams will be marked in a way that will ‘recognise the disruption experienced by students taking exams in 2022’

What is a pass at A-level? How A-levels are graded, what the results mean and grade boundaries explained

Exam results day is here (Photo: David Jones/PA Wire)

By Jaymi McCann

Thousands of students across the country will be finding out how they did in their exams today.

It has been a difficult few years for pupils, and as such the exams will be marked in a way that will “recognise the disruption experienced by students taking exams in 2022”.

Even so, the proportion of candidates receiving top grades has fallen from last year, but it is higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 36.4 per cent of entries were awarded either an A or A*, down from 44.8 per cent in 2021 but up from 25.4 per cent in 2019.

But how can you find out your grade boundaries and how your paper was marked? Here’s everything you need to know.

When do A-level results come out?

A-level results day falls on Thursday 18 August, with grades typically available to collect from schools and colleges at around 8am.

Times vary from place to place, though, and grades have previously been released by exam boards under embargo at 6am.

You should check with your institution or teachers to confirm when to arrive to collect your results.

Your school or college should have already told you if it is possible to receive your results by email or by post.

If you are receiving an email, it should also come at around 8am, while posted results will arrive with the rest of your mail.

What is a pass?

You have passed if you get one of six grades, A*, A, B, C, D or E, – where A and A* is the highest grade and E is the lowest.

A D and an E is a pass, but it will get fewer Ucas points.

If a student does not pass, it will show on their results sheet as “Not Classified” or similar.

Who are the exam boards?

AQA

PiAcademy says: “AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) is one of the main examination boards in England and currently accounts for more than half of the GCSE and A-level qualifications taken and marked in the UK each year.

It is a registered charity, independent of the government, and it covers maths, English, several languages, humanities, ICT-related areas, PE and creative subjects.

Edexcel

Edexcel was formed in 1996, following the merger of the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and the University of London Examinations and Assessment Council (ULEAC). It is one of the largest in the UK and is” largely used for GCSE and A-level qualifications in the UK (as well as some vocational qualifications, including NVQs and Functional Skills)”.

It offers “qualifications in around 50 subject areas, including the core subjects of maths, English and science”.

It is the only privately owned examination board, and is owned by published Pearson.

OCR

PiAcademy says: “OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA) sets and assesses GCSEs, A levels and a wide range of vocational courses”. It is “also part of Europe’s largest assessment agency, operating in more than 150 different countries”.

The exam board “offers GCSEs and A levels in more than 40 subjects, including the core subjects of maths, English and science, but also a range of languages, humanities and creative arts subjects”, as well as 450 vocational courses.

How can I find out the grade boundaries?

AQA says: “Grade boundaries show the minimum number of marks you need for each grade, and are published on results day.

“Once all exam papers have been marked, grade boundaries are set by senior examiners and assessment experts. It’s not until after all the marking has been completed that it’s possible to see how difficult students found the paper (for example, compared to previous years) and so take this into account when setting the boundaries. This means that a student who performed at a certain level should get the same grade regardless of which year they sat the exam.”

The boundaries are released on the same day results are, Thursday 18 August 2022.

You can find the AQA boundaries on the AQA website from 8am.

For Edexcel, grade boundaries are available here.

OCR’s grade boundaries have also been released, you can find them here.

How are exams being marked this year?

Teacher-assessed grades were brought in for the years where education was affected directly by Covid lockdowns. It was done to ensure “fairness and flexibility” for those students adversely affected, and it meant they were graded on what they were taught, not what they could be examined on.

This year that has been scrapped and exams are back.

However, examiners have been asked to grade papers more leniently than in previous, pre-pandemic years, to compensate for the disruption Covid has had on pupils’ learning.

Grade boundaries could be relaxed in some cases, with a lower score across papers needed to secure a particular grade, but markers’ generosity could also be more far-reaching.

Ofqual chief regulator Dr Jo Saxton said: “Our grading approach will recognise the disruption experienced by students taking exams in 2022.

“It will provide a safety net for those who might otherwise just miss out on a higher grade, while taking a step back to normal.”

Ofqual said this summer’s grade boundaries will be set roughly between 2019 pre-pandemic levels and boundaries in 2021, when teacher assessment was used to set grades.

Ofqual says: “Results in summer 2022 will be higher than when summer exams were last sat, but lower than in 2021, when grades were awarded by teacher assessment. Schools’ and colleges’ results are highly likely to be lower than in 2021 when exams did not go ahead. Very few schools or colleges, if any, will get higher results than in 2021.

Schools minister Will Quince said it was important to “move back to a position where qualifications maintain their value” and reassured students that grades will still be higher than in 2019.

AQA, formerly the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, is an awarding body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says: “Ofqual will offer more generous grading of exams this year compared to a normal exam year – learn more about grading as part of exam changes in 2022.”

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