A-Levels 2020 Results Day Guide

How were grades calculated this year?

Each institution is required to give a Centre Assessed Grade (CAG) which consists of various academic work of each student such as mock exams, homework, classwork and coursework as stated by Ofqual (2020, p.4). Institutions are also required to rank their students in order of their likelihood in securing certain grades (rank order) for each subject e.g. Ahmed is ranked 1st with regards to the likelihood  of achieving  an A grade in chemistry under normal circumstances (where A-level examinations were written this summer).  Beatrice however, is ranked  2nd at the judgement of her teachers.

Students have their own unique CAG as each student’s work is their own. Furthermore, no two students can hold the  same position in the rank order within their subject cohort i.e. all the students who are studying the same subject even if they are in separate classes. Thus, to calculate the most appropriate  rank order for each student it has to be agreed on by the headteacher/college principal and at least two other teachers of the respective subject .

With this data exam boards attempt to standardise these grades with a statistical model co-developed with Ofqual to ‘ensure’ the same standard is applied across the entire country. The standardisation model checks the expected results from the institution and adjusts it based off data from:

  • The national average of that subject
  • The prior attainment of its student this year compared to previous years
  • The school or college results from previous years.


The methodology of standardising grades is definitively flawed. Nearly 40% of students saw their grades marked down after moderation from the predictions issued by teachers (Ofqual 2020, p. 135), with those from a lower socio-economic background being impacted the most, as if only to worsen the disparity students from BAME and lower socioeconomic backgrounds already face. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of A*/A grades attained by independent institutions have risen by 4.7% more than double the 2% of state comprehensive schools (Ofqual 2020, p.136).

In Scotland, the model was also seen to disproportionately affect pupils from disadvantaged areas as the higher pass rate for pupils was reduced by 15.2 percentage points for students from poorer areas whereas only 6.9 percentage points for the wealthiest pupils (SQA, 2020). Since this catastrophe the Scottish government has upgraded the results of students by following the original CAGs.

What to do next if you’re unhappy with your grades

  1. Speak to staff and identify any grounds for appeal. Staff too are very disappointed at the way results were handled and would definitely want to support you. Despite staff following all the government guidelines in developing your CAGs, the algorithm used in the final results put all their efforts to waste.

Grounds for Appeal (Ofqual, 2020):

  • Higher Mock Grades (refer to Ofqual guidance below)
  • Errors made in students position in rank order (by the school)
  • Errors made in submitting a student Centre Assessed Grade (by the school)
  • Errors made by exam board in communicating your final grade
  • Errors made by exam board by using wrong data
  • Discrimination or bias towards you (see student guides below for more information)
  • Substantial events such as a fire or a flood in previous years which meant students had to relocate
  • Change in demographic of a school from single-sex to co-educational
  • High ability student whose results would have been out of line with schools historic data

For further detail on Grounds for Appeal see ‘Student guide to post-16 qualifications results Summer 2020’  by Ofqual pages 8-12.

For appealing due to discrimination or bias, please see guide above and ‘Student guide to appeals and malpractice or maladministration complaints’ by Ofqual.

For appealing due to receiving higher mock grades, Ofqual had released criteria on 15/08/2020 on what stipulated valid mock exams but as of later on in the same day they had released a statement about reviewing the policy. Please stay updated with the latest from Ofqual on the gov.uk page (link found below in the ‘Stay updated with Ofqual’ section).

Links to the resources mentioned above can be found under the ‘References’ section.

You will not be able to appeal by yourself and will need the institution’s agreement to appeal.

You may try other grounds for appeal such as, a student below you in the rank order for the same grade and subject has been upgraded (requires access to rank order). This means that you’re also eligible for an upgrade as staff have signed you as someone who is more secure to achieve a certain grade.

  1. Immediately contact your placements (Uni choices / School Leavers)

Notify them that you have started your appeals process and are still interested in the course and would like them to hold your position. Mention here if you’ve been put in a disadvantageous position due to the standardisation method (i.e. your school is in a lower socio-economic neighbourhood). If they don’t hold the position or require for you to explain yourself then tell them your reason or state your grounds. Ask is there anything they could do for you as many universities have said that they will be considerate when accepting prospective students this year.

  1. Begin at the earliest instance your appeal process, guidance on how to do this should be revealed by the government and your own institution soon. Deadlines for Appeals on 17th September 2020 but many institutions may give up your seat before or shortly after.
  2. If Appeals are unsuccessful and you have no other options then resit exams. Deadline to enter exams on 4th September 2020. A Level Exams will run during 5th October 2020 – 23rd October 2020 or Summer 2021 which usually means that you begin university in Autumn 2021 (Unless in the rare case your university has a January start in which case contact them to hold your position). Don’t worry if you do your exams and they are lower than your CAGs, you still keep the best grades.
  3. If the resit didn’t go as expected give yourself some time to reconsider your options or get in touch with us (details below) and we can give you advice on your next steps or find other possible routes into the field you’re passionate about.

We’d love to hear from you!

Niyaz Uddin, the Lead of The College Forum has said:

“At TCF we look to empower students to excel in their fields of interest and have set up a service to support students during these difficult times”.

We understand this is an extremely daunting and bewildering experience for many, that’s why we’re here to help. We will continue to work with students, push for greater transparency and better systemic conditions that ensure students can reach and maximise their potential without being hamstrung by biases out of their control.

Please get in touch if you would like to receive personalised support and advice on what to do next.

Please contact us by filling out this form: https://bit.ly/results-tcf

A member from The College Forum team will contact you shortly and follow up with any queries you may have.

Guide is accurate as of 17/08/2020 at 10:30am

Stay updated with Ofqual

Latest updates from Ofqual can be found directly from the government website: https://www.gov.uk/search/all?parent=ofqual&organisations%5B%5D=ofqual&order=updated-newest


Ofqual, 2020. Student guide to post-16 qualifications results. Summer 2020, Coventry : Ofqual. pp. 4 <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/student-guide-to-post-16-qualification-results-summer-2020> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

Ofqual, 2020. Student guide to appeals and malpractice or maladministration complaints, Coventry : Ofqual. <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/student-guide-to-appeals-and-malpractice-or-maladministration-complaints-summer-2020> [Accessed 14 August 2020].

Ofqual, 2020. Awarding GCSE, AS, A level, advanced extension awards and extended project qualifications in summer 2020: interim report, Coventry : Ofqual. pp. 135-136

Sqa.org.uk. 2020. 2020 Alternative Certification Model: Equality Impact Assessment. [online] Available at: <https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/files_ccc/2020-sqa-alternative-certification-model-equality-impact-assessment.pdf > [Accessed 14 August 2020]

Who we are

The College Forum (TCF) is an initiative of the Muslim Youth Network (MYN) who aim to develop college/sixth-form students in a holistic manner. This entails providing mentorship and a whole range of projects that instills in you striving for excellence in both your commitment to Islam and your academia.

We produce leaders who have excelled in their respective fields whilst being grounded in their faith. We run several projects including an annual winter camp, skills-boosting seminars, night programmes as well as other workshops and fun trips for young people. Most notably we pride ourselves for the mentorship programme which we have seen in ourselves and others to drive such a stark improvement in our mindset, character and our leadership abilities.

If you would like to learn more about TCF or are interested to join us, please use the Google Form above and someone from the team will get back to you very shortly.