GCSE and A-Level autumn exams 2020: Everything you need to know about retakes

The exam timetable for GCSE retakes has been released.
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  • If your teen is disappointed with their A level or GCSE results this year, there's always the option for autumn exam retakes this year.

    It’s fair to say that those taking GCSEs and A-levels this year hardly got what they were expecting when it came to exam season and now, with results day for GCSE students coming up, the process changing your grade if you’re not happy with it through retakes in the autumn or later the following year has been altered as well.

    Normally, students would take exams in the summer term and results would be out in August with UCAS and sixth forms or colleges confirming places for students on the same day or soon after. Anyone not happy with their grades on the final results day could have their papers remarked or retake the exam at a later date, normally by repeating a year or doing the autumn exam retakes.

    READ MORE: When do A Level and GCSE results come out this year?

    This year, however, there weren’t any exams taken by students in the UK due to coronavirus. Instead, students were initially given their final grades based on schools predictions and an algorithm in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However due to controversy in recent days around the system, which led to thousands of students missing out on university places for this year, students are now being given teacher’s predicted grades.

    In Wales, teachers’ estimates will also be used to predict exam grades.

    If students are not happy with their grades, however, England’s exams regular Ofqual has promised that students can do a “full suite” of exam retakes in the autumn term to bring their grades up, with the highest grade from predicted grades or mock exams and the exam taken as their final grade.

    On results day, if students feel their results have been unfairly calculated, they can also appeal to their school and find out how to potentially change their grades to mock exam results or to have results re-assessed.

    With results out on Thursday August 13 and Thursday August 20 this year, it’s important to know how GCSE and A-level students can take these exams and change their grades if they’re not happy.

    Here, we explain what to consider before deciding to take an exam this autumn.

    Why might you consider retaking GCSES or A-levels?

    Exam results are important for getting into universities, applying for jobs, apprenticeships and even getting onto A level courses. If students feel that they haven’t done as well as they could have done in their predicted results or mock exam results, exam retakes might be a good option this year.

    GCSE

    Students in England whose results are below a 4 (previously a C) in Maths and English have to continue these subjects further, in line with government legislation. Most schools and colleges will let pupils resit Maths and English GCSEs alongside other courses. With other subjects, it’s always worth checking if students do actually need to retake them as many colleges will take students without a full set of grades and encourage them to resit GCSE whole studying for A-levels (or equivalent).

    A levels

    With A levels, if students need the grades to get on to a particular course at university then it could be worth resitting. However, this year, universities have been told that if students miss out on entry requirements but their school is appealing, to hold their place on the course until the appeal has been decided.

    Clare Marchant of the UCAS admissions service also told the BBC, “Those near-miss candidates, if they’ve dropped one or two grades, universities are being super-flexible about that,” which should calm the nerves of those heading into results day.

    If they’re not sure they can improve their grades it might be worth looking at other options. Our guide to GCSE results and A-level results has more information on this.

    How do you retake GCSEs or A-levels in autumn this year?

    man studying with laptop and note pad - autumn exam retakes 2020

    Credit: Getty

    Those students not happy with their predicted or mock exam results this year will be offered the opportunity to sit their exams, in any subject, later this year in October for A-level students and November for GCSE students.

    Following this announcement, tes has released the autumn timetable for GCSE resits and A-level resits.

    For A-level students, entries for exams must be submitted by September 4 as exams will begin on October 5 and end on October 23 2020.

    Submissions for English Language and Mathematics GCSE exams have to be submitted by October 4 and October 18 for all other subjects, will exams beginning on November 2 and ending on November 23 2020.

    The exams have to take place in the school, college or exam centre where their original exam would have otherwise taken place.

    In a statement issued earlier this year, Ofqual said, “Any student unable to receive a calculated result, and others who would like to improve their grades, will have an opportunity to take the full suite of GCSE, AS and A-level exams in the autumn.”

    They also confirmed that students would be able to appeal their initial results through their school or college, if they feel that the predicted or mock exam results process this summer was not “followed correctly in their case”.

    Along with these, Ofqual also released the following decisions and guidelines:

    • Exam boards must make exams in all GCSE, AS and A level subjects available in the autumn.
    • Boards must base the final results on the students’ performance in the autumn exams alone and not on any other non-exam assessment, apart from art and design qualifications.
    • Exam boards must issue replacement exam certificates after the autumn exam results if the student’s requests this.
    • Normal arrangements for reviews of marking and appeals of the results have to be made.

    By doing this, the government hopes that all students will be able to attain the grades they deserve to move on with higher education or other routes, such as apprenticeships or employment.

    Is it free to take an exam this autumn?

    As with regular exam seasons that take place in a school or college, students won’t have to pay to resit an exam this autumn. Normally, schools pay for students to take exams and this year, with more students than normal expected to retake their exams in November, the guidance states, “Schools and colleges will also be able to claim funding through the service if their autumn fees exceed any fee savings that awarding organisations are returning to them, following the cancellation of summer exams.”

    It continues, “We expect schools and colleges to pay fees for all students who were due to sit exams in the summer, rather than passing the cost on to students or their families.”

    This means that as per normal, the school or college is liable to pay for pupils to take exams this year.

    However, if you or your child is educated privately at home or externally outside of a school or college, then you will have to pay to take any exams this autumn.

    When will the autumn GCSE and A-level exam results be released?

    boy finding out his exam results with parents

    Credit: Getty

    Tes also confirms in their release of the exam timetable that all the results for the A-level retakes will be made available from December 17 this year, while GCSE autumn resit grades will be available from January 14 2021 for subjects English Language, Functional Skills, AQA Certificate and Level 3 Extended Project. All other GCSE subject results will be released on February 11 2021.

    This is because it takes time to mark the exams and conduct quality checks on the marking, to ensure that students get the grade they deserve.

    In their guidance, the Department for Education has said, “The autumn series will replicate a normal summer exam series as far as possible. The normal review of marking and appeal arrangements will therefore apply to the autumn series.”

    If you are entering university and taking an autumn exam, it could still be possible to take your place as planned. The results will take time to come out, but the Department for Education has encouraged students to get in touch with the university to discuss whether they want to take their place as planned or delay by a year and wait for the results.

    There’s no minimum grade to retake exams as far as exam boards are concerned, but in some cases, schools won’t allow students to retake. If this happens, you could try and find another school or college to retake the exams if you really think you can improve the mark.

    Deciding whether to take autumn exams

    As this year is unlike any other in history, it’s important to think hard about whether you should go for any autumn exam retakes.

    These are some of the things to consider before deciding to retake GCSES or A-levels this autumn:

    What is the predicted grade at the end of the exam?

    The first thing to do is to talk to the subject teacher of the exam that you might want to retake, as they will be able to give you some insight into whether you could achieve a higher grade.

    If they don’t think it’s possible, you’re still free to go ahead with the exam re-take in most cases.

    What else will be happening in autumn? 

    If you are starting at a new school or even at university in the autumn term and have to take an exam alongside this, it’s likely to be added stress. So it’s important to consider whether, if you have your place at the college or university of your choice anyway, it’s actually worth retaking the exam.

    Why do you want to retake the GCSE or A-level? 

    Understandably, if you’ll lose out on a university or college place by not retaking the exam, then it makes sense as to why you might want to retake. However if you already have all your ducks in a row, think about why you might want to retake the exam.

    And think about why it didn’t go so well the first time. If it was because you didn’t get your revision tactics quite right then what will you do to make sure that the same mistake isn’t repeated this time? If it’s a subject they really struggle with, be realistic as to whether retaking will product a better grade.

    If they do retake, however, their final grade will be the highest of the ones given so if they do retake and it doesn’t go well, then they just remain with their original grade.

    Childline has the following advice for young people considering exam retakes:

    • Don’t panic if you don’t get the results you were hoping for.
    • You may have to make some tough decisions but remember you always have options and you can get help.
    • Everyone is different so try not to compare your results to your friends or classmates.
    • If you’re disappointed with your results it can help to talk to a teacher or someone you trust about how you’re feeling.

    If you are thinking about autumn exam retakes this year – good luck!