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GCSE results for the autumn series

Students who took GCSEs in the autumn series (excluding English language and maths) receive their results today (11 February 2021). While overall entries have been small compared to a typical summer series, the autumn series has provided students with the opportunity to enter if they were disappointed with their grade in summer 2020 and wanted to improve this, or if they were unable to get a grade in summer 2020.

Once again, we pay tribute to the resilience of students who took these exams and we thank the schools, colleges and other centres who worked hard to put on this exam series during a pandemic.

We have previously published blogs outlining the approach to setting standards in the autumn series, and in relation to results for AS/A levels and results for GCSE English language and maths.

Overall results

Overall results for GCSEs in the autumn series have been published by JCQ. This includes a breakdown for each subject. But these can’t really be compared to results in a summer series. Autumn entries were small compared to a typical summer series – for these GCSEs there were just over 15k results issued in autumn, compared to over 3.7m in a typical summer series. As a result, it’s unlikely that the students taking exams this autumn were representative of the cohort in the summer.

The majority of students entering these GCSEs (over 80%) took one subject in the autumn, suggesting that students have generally been selective about their entries. The overall outcomes published by JCQ show relatively high achievement at the top grades – over a third of entrants achieved grade 7 and above, and just over 15% achieved grade 9. These outcomes are likely to reflect the nature of the students entering in the autumn series, and the subjects that they have entered.

Results have also been published by individual exam boards. As we have said previously, it is not possible to make meaningful comparisons between results for different exam boards. As in any exam series, one exam board might have a very able entry for a subject and see far more students getting higher grades, while another exam board might have a less able entry and might see much lower overall results.

Improving grades

We have previously published information showing the percentage of students that improved their grade in the autumn compared to summer 2020, for AS/A level and GCSE English language and maths. This showed that around 50% of students improved their grade for A level, around 40% improved their grade for AS, and around 45% improved their grade for GCSE English language and maths.

For GCSE results published today, our analyses show that just under 60% of students improved their grade compared to the summer, around 25% achieved the same grade, and just over 15% received a lower grade. For those students who have not improved their grade, they will still be able to use their grade from the summer. Our student guide aims to answer questions students might have about their GCSEs, AS and A levels.

The percentage of students improving their grade for GCSE results issued today is higher than for AS/A level and GCSE English language and maths. These differences are likely to reflect the nature of students entering in the autumn series, and students’ motivation for entering different qualifications.

Results for the autumn A level series were issued in December, and GCSE English language and maths results were issued in January, so this is the final results day for the autumn 2020 series.

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