Special consideration requests fall for the first time in 5 years

The number of special consideration request made for GCSE and A-level exams in England fell by 4 per cent this year – the first decrease in at least five years.

Special consideration requests are made by schools when pupils who take exams are disadvantaged in some way, or for those who cannot sit an exam for good reason – normally due to “exceptional circumstances”.

This year, there were 590,855 special consideration requests, down from 615,370 in 2018. The proportion of requests approved remained similar to last year (92 per cent, down from 93 per cent).

Ofqual said various factors have an influence on the number of requests made, but pointed to the decline in entries to AS-levels following their decoupling from A-levels.

The regulator also added: “The overall number of entries [in all exams] declined compared to 2018, falling by approximately 2 per cent, which may partly explain the small decrease in the number of special consideration requests.”

The fall was also driven by a decrease in the number of mark adjustment requests. These involve an adjustment of up to 5 per cent to the maximum mark of a question paper. The number of such requests fell from 595,200 in 2018 to 567,485 this year. The approval rate for mark adjustment requests fell very slightly from 97 per cent to 96.1 per cent.

The proportion of candidates receiving a 5 per cent adjustment fell from 9 per cent last year to 6 per cent this year, while there was an increase in the combined proportion of 3 per cent and 4 per cent adjustments.


The number of requests for a qualification award – whereby pupils are given a mark despite not having sat the paper – increased from 20,170 in 2018 to 23,375 this year. The proportion approved rose from 3 per cent to 3.9 per cent over the same period.

The data also shows a steep fall in the number of requests for special consideration in AS or A-level maths, from 19,555 in 2018, to 14,810 this year.

According to the regulator, this may be explained by a decline in AS-level entries for maths, which fell by 76 per cent this year.

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