Qualifications Wales confirms a return to pre-pandemic exam and assessment arrangements this year

Qualifications Wales has announced the approach for exams and assessments for the 2023-2024 academic year, confirming that GCSE, AS, A level and Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications in Wales will largely return to pre-pandemic arrangements.

In line with previously set out plans, Qualifications Wales has written to schools and colleges with further details about its 2023-24 grading approach. The information is intended to support communications with learners and decisions on predicted grades for university applications. The update confirms a return to pre-pandemic approaches, starting in November, with statistical protection in the awarding process to prevent results falling substantially below pre-pandemic levels, at a subject level.    

This signals the last step on the Welsh qualification system’s journey back to usual assessment arrangements, following the years of alternative arrangements due to disruption from the pandemic:  

  • 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 - exams were cancelled and learners received grades determined by their school or college  
  • 2021-2022 - saw the return of exams and formal assessments. However, changes were in place including adaptations such as reducing the content for assessment and advance information, and a grading policy that started a stepped return to pre-pandemic outcomes 
  • 2022-2023 – exams took place. However, some extra support remained in place in the form of advance information and a grading policy that continued the gradual return to pre-pandemic outcomes 

Philip Blaker, Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales said: 

“After the years of alternative arrangements, I can confirm that this year’s GCSEs, AS, A levels and Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications in Wales will return to pre-pandemic arrangements. As was the case last year, vocational qualifications will also follow pre-pandemic arrangements.   

Learners are at the heart of our decisions, which is why we have taken a stepped approach to returning to pre-pandemic arrangements over the last few years.  

It’s important that we get back to the usual arrangements so that grades prepare learners for college, university or employment in the best possible way, and help them to make the right choices about their next steps.  

The broadly midway grading approaches of the past two years provided additional support for learners, and we believe that was the right thing to do.  However, that meant that we could not maintain standards in the normal way. It is vital that we protect the long-term value of learners’ grades, to ensure comparability with their peers in other jurisdictions and maintain confidence in the Welsh qualifications system. 

In 2024, learners will again have the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do in exams and formal assessments. The grades that learners achieve in these exams and formal assessments measure their attainment and allow them to progress into higher and further education, or on to employment.”