A-Level Grades 2021: What You Need To Know


27th March 2021

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The ongoing story of student grades and COVID-19 has had more twists and turns than a Sherlock Holmes novel. From last year’s students studying for exams that didn’t happen to a mass confusion of subsequent grades, the pandemic has well and truly taken a spanner to the works of university applications. The good news is, there seems to be a clearer path for students who have applied for undergraduate courses this year. We know the basic outline of how individuals will and won’t be assessed. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t be alone if you’re confused about how A-Level grades and university places are being allocated in 2021. We have brought together some of the key up-to-date advice on how this year’s cohort of prospective university students will be graded.

The most important message is that no A-Level year student studying in the UK will be required to sit standard exams this year. Official sources suggest that this relates more to the academic disruption that students have experienced over the past 12 months more than infection concerns. Individual schools will determine grades and, in some cases, these will be checked by academic organisations to make sure that marks are being allocated fairly. There are some differences depending on what country you live in, as detailed below.

In England, your grades will be determined by your subject teacher, who will use previous coursework and mock exam marks to determine your final grade.

In Wales, like England, students will receive their grades from teachers this Summer. Teachers will use coursework and mock exam grades to determine students’ marks. Qualifications Wales will release a grading framework that your school will use to measure your work against; this guide should be accessible to students online.

Scotland’s National 5 exams have been cancelled and teachers have been asked to set grades based on the learner’s attainment and predicted grade.

Grades for A-level students in Northern Ireland will be dictated by students’ teachers through ‘moderation’. Grades will be awarded using in-class work and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessments will also be providing schools with in-class tests as an alternative method of assessment.

So, what happens if you don’t get the grades that you’re expecting in the Summer? A-Level results day in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is on 10th August 2021. This is earlier than in previous years, with A-Level results usually released at the end of August. It is hoped that allowing students to receive their grades sooner will provide more time for appeals to take place, removing the urgent stress and confusion of 2020’s exam season. Any student who is unhappy with a grade can appeal the mark, but there is no guarantee that the grade will be raised and it could even be downgraded. If an appeal isn’t an option for you, then you can always sit an A-Level exam in the Autumn. However, if you’re eager to still get to university this year, then there is always clearing. Clearing will open on Monday 5th July 2021.

So, there you have it. Although the process may seem more confusing than previous years, it is just a matter of working as hard inside the classroom this year as you would in an external exam and staying organised with each of your academic deadlines. Whatever decision you choose to make, Oxbridge Personal Statements is here to support you to deliver a winning UCAS application.