guide to students 2023

We have re written ofqual's guide for students in 2023. Ofqual is the regulator of qualifications in the UK including GCSE & A levels.

This guide offers insights into the current arrangements for qualifications overseen by Ofqual, as well as outlining the support available for students during exams and assessments.

Ofqual oversees roughly 230 awarding organizations responsible for developing, delivering, and awarding qualifications in England. As a regulator, Ofqual establishes guidelines that these organizations must adhere to, ensuring that the qualifications system remains fair and transparent, instilling confidence in students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders.

Ofqual's primary responsibility is to guarantee that qualifications and assessments maintain high standards. By closely monitoring exam boards and awarding organizations, Ofqual ensures that the qualifications serve the needs of students, higher education institutions, and employers effectively.

Some students may not be enrolled in a traditional school or college and instead opt for private candidacy. These individuals could be home-schooled, retaking a qualification after leaving an institution, or studying through distance learning providers, tutors, parents, or independently. To take exams, private candidates must register at a school, college, or another exam center. Detailed information on this process can be found within this guide. The guide also specifies when certain information is relevant only to particular types of qualifications. If you're uncertain about the qualifications you're pursuing, consult your school or college.

This guide discusses awarding organizations and exam boards. All organizations offering qualifications regulated by Ofqual are referred to as awarding organizations. The four awarding organizations that provide GCSEs, AS, and A levels in England are also known as exam boards.

The guide also mentions exams officers, who are responsible for organizing exams within schools or colleges. The specific duties of an exams officer may vary between institutions. To identify your exams officer and learn how to contact them, inquire with your school or college.

What you need to know before your exams

Exam and Assessment Arrangements This year, exams and assessments will proceed as usual. This is crucial in order to optimally prepare you for college, university, or employment and assist you in making informed decisions about your future.

For some students, this may be their first experience with external exams and formal assessments, so the process may be unfamiliar.

Your school or college will register you for the exams and assessments corresponding to the qualifications you are pursuing.

GCSEs, AS, and A levels GCSEs, AS, and A levels are proceeding as usual this year, with the following support measures in place.

A diagram illustrates Ofqual's regulatory role, awarding organizations providing qualifications, and centers delivering assessments to students. View an accessible version of this diagram

Support Materials In GCSE exams for math, physics, and combined science, you will receive formulae and equation sheets to reduce the amount of information you need to memorize for the exams.

Grading Protection Your work will be marked and graded in the standard manner, as it would have been prior to the pandemic. Due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, examiners will exercise some leniency when determining grade boundaries.

Staggered Timetable This year, exams for each subject are spread out. This reduces the likelihood of missing all exams in a subject due to illness and helps with revision and preparation between papers.

Language Assistance For GCSE modern foreign languages, exams do not have to assess unfamiliar vocabulary. Although exams may still contain unfamiliar vocabulary, exam boards can provide meanings for words not included in their vocabulary lists.

GCSE Tiering

Some GCSE subjects have two tiers of entry (foundation or higher), including:

- Math - Combined Science - Physics - Chemistry - Biology - Statistics - Modern foreign languages

Your school or college will decide whether to enter you for the foundation or higher tier.

Foundation tier: Students may be awarded grades 5 to 1 (5-5 to 1-1 in combined science).

Higher tier: Students may be awarded grades 9 to 4 (9-9 to 4-4 in combined science). Students narrowly missing a grade 4 (4-4 for combined science) may be awarded a grade 3 (4-3 for combined science).

If you don't achieve enough marks for a grade, you will receive a 'U'.

Before your exams, make sure you know which tier you are taking to prepare for and complete the appropriate exam paper.

Vocational and Technical Qualifications Exams and assessments for these qualifications will proceed as usual in 2023. If you anticipate completing your vocational or technical qualification this year or in the future, and you have already taken some exams or assessments in the last two academic years, you can use all the results you have achieved so far. This includes any grades from adapted assessments, teacher-assessed grades (TAGs), or centre assessment grades (CAGs) between 2020 and 2022.

Appropriate Modifications and Accessibility Provisions

Appropriate modifications, also referred to as accessibility provisions, are alterations made to exams or assessments, or the manner in which they are conducted, to accommodate students with disabilities. This allows them to showcase their knowledge, comprehension, and abilities without altering the core testing requirements for the qualification.

Your educational institution will be responsible for implementing any suitable modifications or accessibility provisions, which may encompass:

- Additional time for completing exams or assessments - Modifications to exam papers, such as large print or Braille versions - Assistance with specific tasks, like having someone read questions aloud or transcribe your spoken answers

The available modifications vary based on each student's individual needs. If you believe you require appropriate modifications or accessibility provisions, it's crucial to discuss your needs with your school or college as early as possible.

Your educational institution will have a designated individual, known as a special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENCo) in schools or a designated contact in colleges, who can provide more information about suitable modifications and their applicability to your situation.

More information about appropriate modifications and accessibility provisions can be found in the JCQ Guidance.

Private Candidates

As a private candidate, you must register for your exams at a school, college, or other examination centre.

Not every school or college accommodates private candidates. If you're searching for a place to take your GCSE, AS, and A-level exams, you or your parents or guardians can inquire with schools, colleges, or other examination centres about their offerings for private candidates. Alternatively, you can consult JCQ's directory of institutions that accept private candidates for exams.

If you're a private candidate pursuing a vocational or technical qualification, you should reach out to the organization granting the qualification. They can inform you about potential locations for taking your exams.

Essential Information for Your Exams and Assessments

Getting Ready for Your Exams and Assessments

Consult with your teachers or exam administrators before your exams and assessments to ensure you are well-informed about the procedures and your responsibilities. For instance:

- Verify that you have your individual assessment schedule and are aware of the location and timing of your exams or assessments, including your required arrival time - Understand the materials you are permitted to bring for each exam or assessment, including approved calculators that may only be allowed in specific exams or assessments - Use a transparent pencil case and, if you need a water bottle, make sure to remove the label - Do not bring a mobile phone, watch, or any communication device into the exam, even if turned off, as this could result in lost marks or disqualification - Upon receiving your exam paper, ensure it contains the correct information, such as date, name, and exam tier - If you have any doubts or questions, promptly bring them to the attention of the exam invigilator - Pay close attention and adhere to all instructions provided by the exam invigilator

Adjustments for Special Circumstances

Special consideration refers to any modification granted to a student, including private candidates, who has encountered an unexpected event beyond their control at the time of the exam or assessment, significantly impacting their ability to participate in or perform during the assessment.

Special consideration is solely for incidents that occur immediately before or during an exam or assessment and have a substantial impact on a student's ability to take or perform in that exam or assessment.

To qualify for special consideration, you must have been adequately prepared for the assessment and have completed the entire course. You will not be eligible for special consideration due to educational disruptions, whether caused by the pandemic or any other reason.

There are three distinct types of special consideration:

1. Modifications to assessment procedures for those with temporary injuries or illnesses, sometimes called "access arrangements." For instance, a student with a broken arm may have someone transcribe their dictated answers. 2. The awarding of a small number of additional marks if your exam performance is affected by temporary illness, injury, or other unexpected circumstances. 3. The granting of a grade if you unavoidably missed an exam or assessment, provided you have completed at least one other exam or assessment for that qualification.

If you believe you may be eligible for special consideration, you should consult your school or college.

More information can be found in the JCQ publication: A Guide to the Special Consideration Process.


Misconduct refers to any form of improper conduct. Examples include sharing answers, impersonating someone else, leaking exam papers or assessment materials, exchanging scripts, sneaking information, or bringing mobile phones and communication devices into exam rooms. Wearing a watch during an exam is also considered misconduct.

You may come across websites or individuals offering leaked exam papers or assessment materials. Do not engage with any papers or materials provided in this manner. They are likely fraudulent, and awarding organizations investigate any attempts to compromise exam paper security. If you are found to have interacted with leaked papers, you could face penalties, including disqualification.

It is crucial to report any suspected exam paper leaks to Ofqual or the awarding organization promptly, so inform your teacher if you become aware of any such leaks.

Students who cheat or commit misconduct may face severe consequences, including disqualification from the qualification.

Reporting Suspected Misconduct

Everyone involved in administering and taking exams and formal assessments has a responsibility to prevent and report misconduct, including you. This ensures fairness for all students.

All allegations of misconduct are treated with utmost seriousness and will be investigated.

If you witness or suspect misconduct, you should report it to a teacher, your exams officer, or the awarding organization. Your school or college is required to investigate and report such incidents to the awarding organization.

If you prefer not to speak with your school or college, you can contact the relevant awarding organization or Ofqual directly.

Post-Examination and Assessment Procedures

Once you have completed your exam or assessment, the awarding organizations will evaluate your work. After marking the papers for your qualification, they will determine the required marks for each grade, a process known as grading.


Awarding organizations establish the method for marking your exam or assessment, which could be paper-based or online and involve multiple markers. Typically, markers will not see your name or the school or college you attend, ensuring anonymity. Awarding organizations maintain consistency and high-quality marking by continuously checking markers' work.

Non-exam assessments, such as practical tasks or performances, may be evaluated by the awarding organization or by your teacher based on the organization's guidelines. If you have concerns about the marking of your non-exam assessment or your provisional grade calculation, consult your school or college.

For GCSE, AS, and A-level assessments marked by your teacher, you have the right to know your marks. If you believe your mark is incorrect, you can request a review of your teacher's marking from your school or college before submitting the marks to the exam board. An uninvolved individual will conduct the review. Ask your school or college for information on this process.

Exam boards then moderate your work. Moderation ensures that teachers' marking aligns with the awarding organization's expectations.

Awarding organizations verify teachers' marking of non-exam assessments to maintain consistency across all schools and colleges. They may examine a sample of work from your school or college to confirm that marking aligns with national standards. Your work could be part of that sample.


Your work will be marked and graded in the usual manner this year, as it would have been before the pandemic. Due to pandemic-related disruptions, examiners will exhibit slight leniency when setting grade boundaries for GCSE, AS, and A-level. It is essential to transition toward normalcy to optimally prepare you for college, university, or employment and support your future decision-making.

Generally, a student who would have attained a grade 7 or A in a GCSE or A-level before the pandemic will have a similar likelihood of achieving that grade in 2023, even if their assessment performance is slightly weaker this year.

After marking exam papers or assessments, senior examiners will review them to assess the quality of student work and consider all available evidence before recommending grade boundaries—the number of marks needed for each grade. This occurs after marking to enable awarding organizations to evaluate students' responses to questions. Grade boundaries change annually to account for variations in question paper difficulty.

Experts at awarding organizations will monitor grading throughout the process, and Ofqual will ensure that they adopt an appropriate grading approach. There is no predetermined distribution of grades. Your awarded grade will reflect your performance.

For some vocational and technical qualifications, individual assessed tasks will receive a grade, which will be combined to determine your final overall grade. T Levels will be graded generously this year, as they are new qualifications.

Receiving Your Results

The date you obtain your results depends on the qualification you are pursuing, the assessment method, and the awarding organization.

A-level and AS results will be available on:

Thursday, August 17, 2023

If you are studying a level 3 vocational or technical qualification and plan to use your results for further or higher education, you will receive your results on or before August 17.

GCSE results will be available on:

Thursday, August 24, 2023

If you are studying a level 2 vocational or technical qualification and plan to use your results for further or higher education, you will receive your results on or before August 24.

Results for some vocational and technical qualifications will be accessible at various times throughout the year. You can find the date for receiving your qualification results on the awarding organization's website for that qualification.

If you have concerns about when you will receive your results or what they entail, consult your school or college for assistance.