Exams 2021: All the AS and A-level changes, subject by subject

The exams regulator Ofqual has confirmed the changes that will be made to AS and A-level assessments next year.

The decisions were published in the outcome to a consultation on the proposals for exams in 2021, which was drawn up in response to concerns about the continuing impact of coronavirus.

The changes proposed are supposed to address concerns that pupils may have missed out on learning, and to enable certain assessments to go ahead in a way that allows for maximum social distancing, for example by reducing the need for group performances.

Below is a list of the changes by each AS and A-level subject.

There will be no changes to accounting, ancient history, biblical Hebrew, business, classical civilisation, classical Greek, computer science, economics, electronics, English language, English literature, English language and literature, further maths, history, history of art, Latin, law, maths, modern foreign languages, philosophy, politics, psychology, religious studies, sociology or statistics.

For a number of the subjects below, it is now up to the exam boards to clarify their individual requirements for the schools that use them.

 

Art and design AS and A-level

Assessment will be based on portfolio only, with exam boards permitted to carry out moderation of photographic or digital portfolios.

 

Biology, chemistry, physics AS-level

Pupils will be able to cover required apparatus and techniques through observations of demonstrations or simulations of practical activities.

 

Biology, chemistry, physics A-level

The requirements for the practical endorsement will be changed to allow assessment of the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) “across the minimum number of practical activities required to demonstrate competence”.

Exam boards will be able to monitor schools’ application of CPAC “by remote means”.

 

Dance AS-level

For performance assessments, pupils will have to submit a “complete and unedited” audio-visual recording of their performed dances from the perspective of the audience.

For the choreography Assessment, exam boards will be able to accept “a programme note or alternative evidence for the choreographed dance to illustrate the choreographic intent and how that was developed”.

Both NEA components will either be marked by the teacher and moderated by the exam board, or both marked and moderated by the exam board.

Exam boards will “provide clarification” about their requirements.

 

Dance A-level

Like at AS-level, the performance assessment must be submitted in the form of a complete and unedited video recording from the point of view of the audience.

For the choreography assessment, exam boards will be able to accept alternative evidence to illustrate the intended final piece.

Again, who marks the NEAs is up to the exam board, which will have to provide clarification about their requirements.

 

Design and technology AS and A-level

Exam boards will be able to accept mock-ups and/or “clear and detailed intentions of prototypes”. The boards will “provide clarification” about their requirements.

Demonstration of using machinery, tools and processes will be permitted.

 

Drama and theatre AS-level

Pupils will be able to satisfy the live performance statement through “streamed or recorded performances”.

For the text-based performance, pupils will have to “evidence their application of theatrical skills to realise artistic intentions, contribution to the creation and development of ideas, and analysis and evaluation of their own work, as appropriate to the task”.

Permitted forms of evidence include unedited audio-visual recordings of the text based performance “and/or presentation of each discrete aspect/each student’s individual contribution”.

Exam boards will also allow audio-visual recording of acting performance alone, without the need for fully designed set/lighting/costumes. For directors and designers, permitted alternative evidence will include “prototypes of product(s)/original photographs, drawings or annotated sketches of designs /annotated scripts/video or written account/physical demonstrations”.

Like with dance, it will be up to the exam board whether the NEAs are marked by teachers or the boards themselves.

Exam boards will “provide clarification” on their requirements.

 

Drama and theatre A-level

As with AS drama and theatre, the live performance statement will be able to be satisfied through streamed or recorded performances.

For the devised performance element, exam boards will be able to accept alternative evidence “to illustrate the intended final piece, the student’s contribution to the creation and development of ideas, and their analysis and evaluation of their own work, as appropriate to the task”.

This alternative evidence may include audio-visual recordings of complete performance, or physical demonstrations of key aspects with explanation of how they inform the final piece. Other examples could be original and non-original photographs, images, drawings or sketches “with annotations to illustrate intentions for performance or design”. Others include scripts, written accounts and video diaries.

For the text-based performance, as with AS-level , pupils will have to evidence their application of theatrical skills, contribution to the creation and development of ideas, and analysis and evaluation of their own work, “as appropriate to the task”.

Again, performers will be able to submit videos of them acting alone without the need for fully designed sets, lighting or costumes, while directors and designers will be able to submit alternative evidence, including prototypes, drawings, annotated sketches and scripts.

Performance in monologue will be permitted for both the devised performance and text-based performance.

Again, exam boards will decide how they are marked.

 

Environmental science AS and A-level

Exam boards will allow observation of demonstrations and simulations of practical activities to cover required skills and techniques.

Ofqual is also removing the requirement that schools give a written declaration confirming pupils have had the opportunity to do two (AS) or four (A-level) days of fieldwork.

 

Film studies

At AS-level, exam boards will be able to accept a prototype and/or mock-up of the extract of a film. They will also be able to accept an extract from a screenplay accompanied by a prototype/mock-up, with supporting evidence as necessary, of a digitally photographed storyboard, “both in response to an exam board set brief, with evaluative analysis of own work”.

Supporting evidence may include original and non-original photographs, images, drawings or sketches “with annotations to illustrate intentions/storyboards/screenplay/shooting script”.

Exam boards will “provide clarification” about their requirements.

The same changes will apply at A-level, except they will relate to a short film rather than an extract.

 

Geography AS-level

As with GCSE geography, Ofqual is removing the requirement that schools give a written declaration confirming pupils have had the opportunity to do two days of fieldwork.

At AS-level, pupils will also not have to answer questions in the exam relating to their own fieldwork experience.

The exams will retain unfamiliar fieldwork questions, but won’t be required to cover both human and physical geography.

 

Geography A-level

As with GCSE and AS-level, the fieldwork declaration requirement is being removed for A-levels.

Pupils will still have to undertake the non-exam assessment element, but Ofqual expects exam boards “to review their guidance about their expectations relating to primary data for the NEA”.

 

Geology AS-level

Again, the requirement for the written declaration relating to fieldwork will be removed.

Exam boards will also allow observation of demonstrations and simulations of practical activities to cover “required apparatus and techniques”.

 

Geology A-level

The requirements for the practical endorsement will be changed to allow assessment of the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) “across the minimum number of practical activities required to demonstrate competence”.

Exam boards will be able to monitor schools’ application of CPAC “by remote means”.

The requirement for the written declaration on fieldwork will also be removed at A-level.

 

Media studies

At AS-level, exam boards will be allowed to accept a prototype or mock-up, with supporting evidence, of an individual media production in response to an exam board set brief.

Supporting evidence may include photographs, images, drawings or sketches “with annotations to illustrate intentions/storyboards/television screenplay/shooting script/radio script and directions”.

Boards will “provide clarification” about their requirements.

The same changes will apply at A-level, except they will relate to a cross-media production in response to a set brief.

 

Music AS-level

For the performance assessment, pupils will be required to submit a complete and unedited recording of the live performance and score or lead sheet “where available”.

For the composition assessment, pupils must submit a complete recording of each composition “with a score, lead sheet or written account of the composition, produced by the student”. However, the recordings can be computer-generated.

As with several other subjects involving performance, it will be up to exam boards to decide who marks the NEAs, and exam boards will also be allowed to review when the performance assessment can take place.

 

Music A-level

As with AS-level, pupils will have to submit a recording of their performance assessment, along with score or lead sheet where available. Exam boards will be able to review when performances take place.

For the composition assessment, pupils will submit a complete recording of each composition “with a score, lead sheet or written account of the composition, produced by the student”. Again, recordings can be computer-generated.

 

Music technology

For recording assessments, exam boards will be required to provide approved sample recordings or approve school-selected samples suitable for students “to demonstrate their ability to edit and produce audio recordings”.

For the compositing assessments, exam boards will be required to ensure that where composition briefs have scope for live capture, students “will not be disadvantaged if they complete the task using synthesised sounds only”.

As with other creative subjects, it will be up to exam boards who does the marking.

 

Physical education

Exam boards will be allowed to conduct remote moderation using videoed evidence for “all activities”.

Boards will also be allowed to explore relaxation of the requirements for the provision of evidence, for example, the type and quality of videoed evidence and
the evidence of participation in competitive sport.