The exams retake problem

As described in more detail in our article ‘The new A-level and GCSE exams‘ we’re in the midst of major changes to content and examining process for both GCSE and sixth-form students. As new exams are phased in, the ‘old’ ones are stopping – and the exams regulator OFQUAL has published last exam dates for them. Until recently the last exam date came at the end of the old ‘specification’ teaching. That meant that students in that final group had no way to retake if they under-performed in that last exam session.

Consultation and agreement

This provoked much grumbling because whenever exams have changed in the past, there had always been a retake opportunity built into the transition. OFQUAL launched a consultation on the problem last year, and the consultation results were published on March 23 2016. OFQUAL have decided that there should be a last-chance retake at AS and A level in all subjects, and a more limited range of GCSE subjects, to include Maths, English and Science. All those retake opportunities will be restricted to make sure they’re not used by students who have not taken the exam before. As OFQUAL state ““We are placing restrictions on who can take these resits. These are to ensure that only those students who need to access a resit take them and those that we expect to take a reformed GCSE, AS or A level qualification do that instead.” Further details can be found through the OFQUAL resit announcement page. This last-chance resit is also open to students who sat the relevant exam in previous years.

CIFE Chairman Stuart Nicholson commented “We are delighted that OFQUAL has recognised the need to deal fairly with students taking the legacy qualifications.  CIFE colleges help students every year who need to improve their grades and at last we now know that this cohort of students will not be denied that opportunity.  They will be able to do their best now, but knowing that they’re not also drinking at the Last Chance saloon.”