Supporting learners in Wales as we continue the return to pre-pandemic exam arrangements

Jo Richards, Executive Director of Regulation at Qualifications Wales, talks about the extra support for learners sitting GCSE, AS and A level exams and assessments this summer.

Over the past three years young people have lived through hugely disruptive periods occurring at crucial points in their personal and educational development. The impact of COVID-19 on education and the qualifications system has been profound, and it was always going to take time for the system to recover.

In 2022, learners in Wales sat formal exams and assessments for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with qualification assessment requirements being adapted to account for the disruption to young people’s education caused by COVID-19.

This summer, the journey back to pre-pandemic GCSE, AS and A level arrangements continues.

As you know, exams are taking place again during May and June, with non-examination assessments having already been completed in many subjects.

Some changes have been made to provide extra support for learners sitting formal exams in the form of advance information, together with a grading approach similar to that used in the summer of 2022.

Advance information is intended to support learners by giving them an indication of the topics, themes, texts or other content that they can expect in their exams. This means they will have some information on what will be assessed before the exams take place, and can focus their revision as a result.

The information provided will, of course, be different for each subject, but it should help them prepare for their GCSE, AS and A level exams.

In most cases, the advance information will not cover everything that is going to be assessed. Some exam questions may require additional knowledge. That means learners should revise the whole course content, using the advance information to focus their revision.

WJEC, which awards qualifications and is regulated by Qualifications Wales, has published on its website the advance information relating to the summer 2023 exams. If learners have any questions about advance information, they should speak to their teachers or lecturers.

One thing to note is that advance information is not possible for the Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications. However, permanent changes have been made to these qualifications whereby learners will not need to complete as many challenges as they did before the pandemic.

For GCSEs, AS and A levels provided by WJEC, results will be broadly midway between those awarded in 2019 (the last year before the pandemic) and 2022 (the first year learners sat exams as we emerged from the pandemic). This means that when WJEC awards grades, the process will continue to provide learners with some extra support – a safety net – as we take the next step on the journey back to pre-pandemic results.

It also means that, for each subject, results are likely to be higher than they were in 2019, and lower than they were in 2022.

Everyone knows that preparing for exams and assessments can be a difficult time for learners, their school or college. It can also be challenging for their parents and carers.

It’s worth remembering that everyone involved in overseeing the examinations process – schools, colleges, WJEC and Qualifications Wales – is busy preparing for the coming weeks and months so that everything can run as smoothly as possible.

If you’re a learner preparing for exams and assessments, then I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best. Don’t forget that there is a range of other support available to you, details of which are on our website.

Power Up
Head to the Power Up content hub where you’ll find revision tips, wellbeing guidance and information to get you through the exam and assessment season. You can access revision guides and past papers from WJEC, as well as UCAS application support and wellbeing advice.

WJEC has a dedicated webpage where you can access information about how exams work, how to approach exam questions and tips for looking after your wellbeing. Plus, you’ll find lots of handy revision resources.

Children’s Commissioner
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has lots of helpful information about student services for young people, including mental health and emotional support.

Careers Wales
Careers Wales has lots of useful information about qualifications and training.

Mind Cymru
Mind Cymru is an established mental health charity that offers a range of wellbeing support. Mind is there for you if you’re finding things hard. You can get in contact for confidential advice and support.