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Articles > School January, 07, 2021

Should A Level exams be scrapped for good?

Lisa Moore
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The Coronavirus pandemic has schools shut (temporarily) and exams cancelled. Speculation of overpredicted grades seemed to swamp the media. Thousands of teacher-assessed grades were downgraded with an algorithm last results day. Then one day we decided to trust the teacher’s predictions. We waited with bated breath to see what would happen, to watch as the whole A Level system crumble. Then we realised that nothing had changed…

Since that happened…

There were small amounts of grade inflation but after a few months everyone had moved on and the topic of A Level grades had been laid to rest. Universities adapted and a record number of students were admitted into higher education this academic year.

This raises the question of why exams weren’t cancelled sooner.🤷

Why weren’t thousands of year 13 students spared the pressure of exams in previous years, with teacher assessment used to form the foundation of their grades? One issue many raise when confronted with this idea is the question of accuracy: are teachers going to lie about what grades students would have received? In response to this, surely we should be able to trust teachers to make realistic assessments of grades just as we trust any other sector to carry out their responsibilities. There would be strict guidelines put in place, just as there was this year, and as a result, these assessed grades would be no less valid than any other. There was only small-scale grade inflation this year which could be adjusted for in the future. Furthermore, as we used this system for more cohorts it is reasonable to assume that teacher assessments would become increasingly accurate. There may reach a point where teacher assessment is regarded as the most accurate form of grading, with students who perform badly in exams due to nerves not being penalised.

Surely we should also think about students’ mental health?🤔

The World Health Report cites that mental health disorders affect 1 in 4 people. This is clearly an urgent issue and surely taking away exams would have a positive impact on the mental health of students. The course material would still be taught and learned, but without the impending pressure of exams. Students would be able to focus on what they were learning, and actually learn it! (Instead of worrying about how they were going to perform in the exam). There seems no downside to taking away exams in regards to bettering students’ mental health, and maybe this should be made a priority in future years.

We should also be thinking of exams within the context of this and future pandemics…

Fingers crossed for no future pandemics and that this one ends soon!🤞 The government recently announced that GCSE and A level exams for 2021 would be cancelled. At least for the near future, the prospect of sending students to take exams in crowded exam halls seems unnerving at least and outright dangerous at most. This reality is especially concerning for those living with those classed as ‘vulnerable citizens’. Students may also be unwell and forced to self-isolate on the day of their exam. How would this situation be managed, and would students end up being penalised for simply being unwell? If Coronavirus is here to stay, as many experts suggest, these questions must be addressed. It simply may be easier and a better option overall, to cancel exams for the foreseeable future.

This years’ A Level results have shown to us that grades don’t have to come from exam results. Using teacher assessed grades as an alternative could help student mental health. This alternative shows promise of being as reliable as any other form of assessment. Maybe this year has been a wake-up call for us to seriously reconsider the way that we award grades in future.


What do you think? Should A Level exams be scrapped in favour of other forms of assessment? Let us know in the comment section below! And be sure to rate this article too!

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  1. Safeya arbi

    I think so as i find (this is personal to me) that exams are rather tedius and daunting. Its bad enough having to do gcses for subjects you may not care about. I think most a level exams should be mostly coursework based. Maybe for certain, more academic courses exams are relevent, but i think college age students woukd prefer to do coursework.