Your GCSE questions answered - from how to appeal to the autumn exam series

The government agreed it would give GSCE students whichever grade was highest; teacher predicted or algorithm based. Credit: PA

A record number of pupils have been awarded top grades in their GSCEs after a government U-turn meant results could be based on teachers' estimated grades amid cancelled exams.

This may be good news to many, but if you're unhappy with your estimated grade, you'll likely have many questions.

With help from Rae Tooth, the CEO of social mobility charity Villiers Park Educational Trust, ITV News has answered some of the queries you may have.

Most students have missed more than five months education due to the coronavirus crisis. Credit: PA

I don't agree with the grade I got. Can I appeal?

Firstly, talk to your school or college. They can appeal your grade if they think an administrative error was made when your grade was submitted.

"For instance, if they have been awarded a student with a similar name's grades instead of theirs, which is a possibility", Ms Tooth said.

"That's likely to be obvious if you've been given grades for something you haven't sat".

However, you cannot challenge the grades themselves.

Exam and qualifications regulator Ofqual explains: "Any appeal would have to be decided by someone better placed than your teachers to judge your likely grade if exams had taken place.

"Because exams were cancelled, we don’t think there is such a person".

Can I sit an exam in order to improve my grade?

You can choose to sit exams in the autumn or next year during the summer.

To register for autumn exams, speak to the school or college where you were due to sit your summer exams.

You don't have to sit exams in all of your GSCE subjects. However, you will need to take all the exam papers in the subject that you choose.

For English language and maths autumn GSCE exams, the deadline for entry is October 4.

For all other GCSEs, the deadline is September 18.

All autumn GSCE exams will take place between November 2 and November 23.

Thousands of students across Wales had their A-level grades lowered. Credit: ITV Wales

If my autumn or summer 2021 grade ends up being lower than my centre assessed one, do I have to stick with it?

No. You will be able to show the higher of the two grades to universities, colleges and employers in future.

If I take exams in the autumn, will I still be able to start my college course?

Individual institutions make their own admission decisions.

Ms Tooth advises that in the first instance, you should contact the university or college for specific information.

She added: "Depending on your own circumstances and how your particular college works, they may well let you start your course in September on the assumption you'll get the grades you need when you resit."

My mock result was higher than my final grade. Can I be given that instead?

Unfortunately, you can't appeal your grade to ask to be given your mock exam result.

Your school or college would have considered your mock results when deciding your estimated grade.

Last year, students protested against the government’s handling of the pandemic. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

What should I do if I think bias or discrimination has impacted my estimated grade?

You should raise your concerns with your school or college first, they should have a system in place to deal with such complaints.

Ms Tooth suggests students "gather the evidence they have and go to the school with that".

You can also take your concerns directly to the exam board.

If you have substantial evidence, they will launch an investigation.

Should the investigation find your grade or rank order was not determined appropriately, the exam board must "consider the action needed", which may involve adjusting your result.

What about BTECs? I haven't got my results yet and I'm worried I'll miss out on a college/apprenticeship place?

Once you get your BTEC results, you should get in touch with the college or workplace you have had an offer from to discuss the next steps

Ms Tooth said that before your results arrive, the college or workplace will "know the qualification you're waiting to get, they'll know you're waiting on a BTEC. Unfortunately, you can't influence whether they are holding your place".

GCSE students at Ipswich Academy open their results. Credit: ITV

I've read all of this, but I'm still confused!

"Whatever your circumstances, it's important you have all the information you need to make a decision on next moves", Ms Tooth said.

"Talk to your school and support network. Keep your options open, if you can, when making decisions. Get advice and be kind to yourself".

For more advice and support, consult the following organisations:

  • The Exam Results Helpline can provide information on complaints, appeals and next steps (ring 0800 100 900)

  • UCAS can give information on university applications (ring 0371 468 0 468)

  • Contact Ofqual for further details on how you were graded, the autumn exam series, how to appeal, or how to raise a concern about bias or discrimination (ring 0300 303 3344)

  • For mental health support, contact Young Minds (text YM to 85258) or call your GP and ask for an emergency appointment