What to expect ahead of historic A-Level results day for students in Wales

Students in Wales will receive their AS and A-Level results on Thursday 13, while GCSE results will be released a week later. Credit: PA Images

On August 13, students across Wales will receive their A-Level results. That regular August date may be the only normal thing about A-Levels this year as the coronavirus pandemic meant students did not sit exams.

It was announced on March 18 that summer exams were cancelled as schools and colleges closed their doors.

Grades for GCSE, AS and A-Level pupils in Wales will instead be based on predicted grades that have gone through a 'standardisation' process. However on Wednesday afternoon, the Education Minister for Wales guaranteed that a student's final A-Level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade.

In a sudden change, students in England were also told on Tuesday that they can use mock exam results instead of the moderated grades they get on Thursday.

So what can students in Wales expect on results day?

The moderation process has been scrapped in Scotland and students in England will now not receive grades lower than they were predicted. Credit: PA Images
  • If there are no exams, what are the grades based on?

With summer exams cancelled, a decision had to be made on how students could be awarded grades. For many students, university offers are contingent on their A-Level results and their grades are also integral to job applications.

Qualifications Wales, which is responsible for setting exam board rules here, agreed on a system of 'standardisation'. This means that each pupil's estimated grade is sent to the exam board along with where they rank compared to other students at their college or sixth form.

This information is based on previous coursework, mock exams, homework and classwork.

WJEC, the exam body in Wales, will look at this data and apply their 'standardisation' system.

A similar system was initially agreed to across the other UK nations.

  • How does the 'standardisation' process work?

The WJEC will first use the data provided by colleges and sixth forms on predicted grades to calculate a set of grades for each subject at each institute. This can be based on information such as how the college has previously performed, previous achievements from that year group and national results from years gone by.

The WJEC will then allocate grades to students based on the rank orders that were provided to them by teachers.

However, on Wednesday afternoon Wales' Education Minister announced that no student in Wales will receive a grade lower than they achieved at AS Level.

Kirsty Williams MS made the sudden announcement so that Welsh students would not be disadvantaged against pupils in England and Scotland - where similar changes were recently announced.

Students will still receive their standardised results on Thursday but if a grade is lower than their AS mark, the WJEC will automatically reissue a revised, higher grade to bring it inline with the AS result.

All summer exams were cancelled on March 18 as school across Wales closed their doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: PA Images
  • Is this fair?

The 'standardisation' process is supposed to produce more consistent and accurate grades while ensuring grades allocated reflect the teacher's knowledge of how a pupil was likely to perform in the cancelled exams.

The WJEC said this is necessary because if final A-Level results were just based on predicted grades, they would provide unusually high results for pupils.

They also said this 'standardisation' process is "transparent" and awarded grades are just as "meaningful" this year as any other.

However, all students in Wales have also now been reassured that they will not receive grades lower than their mocks. They may even receive grades through the 'standardisation' process that are higher than their AS results.

In a last minute change, Kirsty Williams MS announced that students in Wales will not receive A-Level grades lower than their AS results. Credit: Welsh Government
  • Are there concerns about the process?

Even after Kirsty Williams' announcement on Wednesday afternoon, some still have concerns about the process.

NUS Wales previously urged Welsh Government to scrap the moderated or 'standardised' grades to avoid "an A Level results postcode lottery".

NUS Wales President, Becky Ricketts said Kirsty Williams' announcement will be a "relief" to some but not for others who did not achieve the grades they wanted at AS-Level. Those people may still be worried about the way their results are calculated.

She said: "It remains to be seen whether this measure will prevent a results postcode lottery as was seen in Scotland, and we will closely monitor the situation."

Plaid Cymru said that this last minute change to how results would be awarded showed "that the system was flawed from the off".

The WJEC say the 'standardisation' process is "transparent" and awarded grades are just as "meaningful" this year as any other. Credit: PA Images
  • Will students collect their results as normal on the day?

This is up to individual institutions so check with your college or sixth form, some are emailing results to students and then offering meetings online - others you can go into school, and speak to your teachers in person.

If pupils are allowed to go in to pick up results, they will still have to adhere to coronavirus regulations like social distancing.

A-Level results will be released at 8am on Thursday 13.

Pupils who do go into collect their results will have to maintain social distancing - so no hugging. Credit: PA Images
  • Can I appeal my results ?

Students are advised to first talk this through with their teacher or the exams office in their sixth form or college - they are the ones who appeal on the student's behalf.

If the college or sixth form agree to appeal, it can take up to 42 days for the WJEC to review that application. This means that you should submit the appeal as soon as possible if you are waiting to confirm a university place.

The final deadline to apply for an appeal is currently 17 September 2020.

Grades can go up, stay the same or even go down following an appeal.

The WJEC had outlined the valid grounds for appeal but following Kirsty Williams' announcement on Wednesday, they said they will now need to reconsider these.

They expect to provide more information on appeals early next week.

Ms Williams also confirmed that the appeals process would be free for students.

  • Is there an option to take exams later in the year?

The WJEC said there are no plans for exams in Wales in the Autumn, apart from the usual November series for GCSE Maths, English and Welsh.

The next opportunity to sit AS and A levels will be summer 2021.

  • What are the other options if you don't get the grades you need?

If you do not get the results you need for a university offer, there is the option of clearing. This is where universities offer places to students who may not have got the grades they needed for their chosen course, in order to fill spaces.

When asked if universities may take into account the circumstances and be flexible with required grades, a Universities Wales spokesperson said their "universities have a long history of taking into account contextual information".

They added: "This flexible approach will continue to be the case this year.

"Learners can be assured that every effort will be made to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by this year’s processes, and those who decide to go to university can look forward to high-quality and rewarding courses, with a leading student experience, to help them fulfill their potential."