Ofqual launches 10-day consultation on advance topics for 2021 exams

Ofqual is seeking views on its plans to release advance notice of topics ahead of exams next year, suggesting the information should not be so detailed that a student could memorise an answer.

In a 10-day consultation launched today, the exams regulator has set out three principles on how it thinks the advance topics plan should work.

The exam boards will decide what information will be provided to teachers and students before exams, and they will publish it at the end of January, Ofqual said.

The regulator has acknowledged there is a risk that “students who are able to revise all of the content for a subject will be better prepared to progress to higher level study”.

But without the changes, Ofqual says students whose education has been the most disrupted by the pandemic could find it difficult to prepare for exams.

The first principle they are seeking opinions on is that the advanced information “should not be so detailed that students are able to memorise answer to write in the exam”.

They say it would give an advantage to students who are good at memorising or rote learning, and it wouldn’t be a “true assessment of the student’s ability”.

“Students might also memorise answers that someone else had written, so the exam would not be a true assessment of the student’s ability in a subject,” the consultation add.

The second is that the information should “not be so extensive or specific that it will damage a student’s progression to higher level qualifications in the summer”.

“Students will focus on the topics that they know will be covered in the exam, but there are some aspects of the content that will be important to be able to study the subject at a higher level,” the document states. “The advance information shouldn’t discourage students from investing in further learning.”

Finally, Ofqual says it should still be possible to “possible to identify stronger and weaker candidates, despite the use of advance information. It shouldn’t allow students to predict the questions and prepare answers in advance.”

Ofqual is also consulting on providing support materials, such as formula and equations, as well as any equality implications on the plans.

The consultation, which closes on December 20, can be viewed here.

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  1. Mary Brettell

    I believe that students should be allowed knowledge of the topics that will be featured in the examinations they are taking in summer 2021. It has been such a disruptive time for all students since March 2020. Unfortunately some students will have missed more school time than others because of having to self-isolate because of cases at home or in their school in comparison to some students who may not have missed anytime. I know they have online lessons but it is not the same as being within the classroom.

  2. For fairness and parity between classes of learners , between schools and areas accross this country due to the ongoing impact of covid they should be scrapped and teachers be shoud be able to grade their learners once again. Our poor young people and their mental health its very difficult to watch their daily struggles and concerns. Some teachers have also been absent due to the pandemic and cover is in place, however this is also a disruption to flow of learning for the pupils .I hope we are listened to, but maybe they have had enough of experts!!

  3. Joanne Meredith

    There definitely needs to be some adjustments to exams as children have had severe disruption to their education. Since being back in school they are constantly being sent home to self-isolate and although they can access learning online often this is just pre-recorded lessons with no opportunity to ask questions or live lessons via zoom where those studying at home again cannot ask questions. It would be, I feel much more appropriate, to scrap exams in favour of teacher assessments as it was last year. It was felt appropriate to do this for last year but actually the education for the cohort of students due to take exams this coming summer has been much more severely impacted that last years cohort and yet they aren’t being afforded the same adjustments.

  4. Michael Mattinson

    According to an ‘Educational Spokesperson’ “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance”. Whilst this may be questionable in normal time, to examine in 2021 is ridiculous and ridiculously unfair on some students. No matter how much you fiddle with examinations next year you should realise that Wales and Scotland have taken the fairest course in accepting that grading has to be by teacher assessment. Furthemore, since they have taken that sensible decision students in England will be disadvantaged in comparing Welsh and Scottish grades as they are trying to sit exams, having missed much of the coursework.

    According to an article in “Family and Education” school attendance plummeted after half term in every region. Some students have only been in school for six weeks in the whole of this term. We must also bear in mind that these youngsters missed an enormous amount of schooling in the last academic year.

    Our grandson attends, or should be attending, Chichester College, an “outstanding” institution. His teaching in the Spring Term 2020 was online. This term his three A levels are taught in class on one and a half days; the rest is online. Goodness knows what will happen in January and Febuary when Covid will presumably be at its worst.

    I appreciate this is only anecdotal example, but there are students across the country, as you well know, who are in a far worse state.

    It is wrong, ridiculous and unfair to suggest that 2021 examinations should take place and I suspect the government will acknowledge this with yet another U turn like last year, late enought to have caused unnecessary stress on thousands of young people. Is Offqual able and willing to point this out to them?