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26th February 2021
Our Head of Academia, Simon Pedley, has investigated what the latest update to grade allocation means for you and your chances of getting into Med School.

How Will My Grades Be Allocated?

Teachers will be allocating grades this year and submitting them to the Department For Education by the 18th of June.

Teachers will need to compile enough evidence to justify the grade they are giving each student – but they may not necessarily have to submit this. Unlike last year, there will be no algorithm or other standardisation method over and above a teacher’s grade.

Apart from any appeal you might make, what the teacher decides is what you get.

When Will I Get My Results?

Results day will be different this year. It’s been brought forward to give students enough time for appeals prior before taking up university places.

A-Level results will be on August 10, and GCSE results will come on August 12.

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How Will I Be Assessed?

The most important thing to know is that you will only be assessed on what you have been taught. This means that you cannot be graded on anything that is on the syllabus but you have not covered by the time you are assessed. This gives teachers significant flexibility to decide what to assess.

The assessment could take the form of a ‘mini exam’. It would be based on past paper material – but won’t form the basis of your grade alone. If ‘assessments’ are used then whole classes need to sit the same one to ensure a degree of comparability.

Unlike last year, schools will need to award grades based on evidence of your performance. The evidence that the DfE has detailed is ‘recommended’ – meaning that schools or departments will have a lot of leeway to decide what they are basing their grades on.

That means that different subjects within the same school could use different assessment methods, which I think is likely. It also means that different classes within the same subject could use different assessment methods. I think this is less likely – but it’s entirely within the rules.

It’s worth knowing that teachers are required to tell you what materials are being used to assess you. It can’t be a surprise! This will give you the opportunity to confirm that it’s your own work, and outline any mitigating circumstances that your teacher may need to be aware of.

The guidance suggests that the evidence needs to be produced as closely as possible to the deadline of June 18th.

Are There Safeguards In Place And Can I Appeal?

There are some limitations on teachers’ ability to decide a grade, and this forms the basis of any appeals. For example, all schools will be required to submit their internal quality assurance processes to exam boards prior to grade submission, so they can be checked.

Unlike in normal years, students can appeal their grades directly rather than needing the school to do so on their behalf. However, they will not be able to appeal the judgement as such. You can only appeal the processes used to allocate the grade and any errors that may have occurred in that process.

What that means in practice is that the basis for an appeal cannot be ‘I have been working at an A all year with my tutor, I shouldn’t be given a B’. The appeal will need to be based on process mistakes made by the school. The school will investigate and if there are mistakes, they can submit a revised grade.

What About Private Candidates?

Private candidates seem to be better catered for this year than last. They will be able to assess private candidates on the same basis as a normal school, and the DFE is due to send specific guidance to listed centres detailing the processes for allocating a grade. There is a commitment that there will be enough centres available to assess any private candidates and that the cost would not be different from a normal year.

What Does This Mean For My Application?

The first thing to keep in mind is that there is likely to be a big increase in top grades again relative to normal years. Top universities are going to be deluged with far more students than they would normally expect to meet offers doing so and taking up places. This means that the pressure for places is going to be intense – especially as we saw a 21% increase in Medicine applications last year.

To stand a chance of getting shortlisted for a Med School interview, you need to do everything you can to ensure that you do meet your offer grades.

This means you need to study hard. Your teachers will be making judgments on your grade based on evidence that you will need to provide, and this evidence may well be checked by exam boards.

Our best advice is to look at the areas of the syllabus that has been taught already, ask which areas are due to be taught before you are assessed, and focus revision and study in those areas. If you need further support, our STEM tuition can provide top quality tuition in science and maths.

Finally, the amount of grade inflation that this is going to inevitably result in will be massive and will not be unwound for several years. It means that, for the foreseeable future, top grades will mean less. Universities are going to be relying more on entrance tests than ever before to find top candidates. The UCAT and BMAT have always been important, but now they may be the only reliable piece of information universities feel they have. So, study hard!

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