2021 Assessments (GCSE and Level)

Good morning everyone,

I wonder if I could pick your collective (and very large!) brains?

I teach Science GCSE and Chemistry A-Level, but I’m sure this would apply to many tutors on here. AQA, and, as I understand it, the other main exam boards, have released secure questions for teachers to use in the upcoming assessments.

However, some of these questions will be released publicly very soon (without the mark scheme):

‘The Government has decided that some of the exam boards’ support materials should be made publicly available, and this applies to all exam boards. The sets of questions and high level mapping grids from our assessment materials will be published on the public area of our website from mid-April, but the mark schemes, marked example answers, detailed mapping grids and all other resources will still be kept secure.’

Quote from: AQA | News | Why exam boards are using past questions for summer 2021

So, as I understand it, students (and everyone else) will have access to the questions that may be used for their assessments very soon… I’m not sure I understand why this is happening?

From a tutoring perspective, I’m not quite sure how to respond - do we refuse to help students with any questions that have been released that could be part of their assessments? Or, since these materials are going to publicly available, can we help them understand the questions (as we would do with any other publicly available past exam paper)?

As you can see, I’m very confused… :confounded:


That’s a really strange idea, and I’m not sure I’ve fully understood what’s happening with it either…

In my mind, if the material is publicly available, I think that there is no reason why we shouldn’t help with it. I’m sure the day after it will be released, there’ll be a tonne of youtube videos explaining each question…

Although interesting to hear others’ thoughts too

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Exactly @Julia ! I was discussing this with my partner last night (who’s not a tutor) and he couldn’t make head or tail of the situation :laughing:


Completely agree with many of the comments above. I teach vocational subjects at my school as well as tutoring so fortunately I am not directly affected by this.
However, there seems to be a lot of delays into what has been expected of teachers (and possibly tutors). Decisions seemed to be only finalised on the last day of Easter term but have been slightly different for GCSE/A’level and vocational subjects. My school have ultimately reiterated that we must gather as much evidence for a students grade. This is generally not an issue for my vocational subject but I know with other subjects, teachers have had to create ‘formal’ assessments once the students returned from lockdown as part of the evidence.
I do not think this is an easy solution but what I would like to think with a teacher’s perspective is that teachers know our students well to award them an accurate grade and not an inflated grade that improves their performance management.
Personally, if a student requests support it should be the case. Using past papers and walk/talk scenario has always existed before the pandemic? I have certainly done this with students practically but also theoretically.

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Would teachers have been able to see the tests before giving them (if it weren’t for this)? When everything was first announced and it seemed like the materials they gave would be informal suggestions for continuous assessment I assumed they would be public. If teachers see it before the tests then some will help students to varying extents, so it’s better to give everyone the advantage rather than have them bias it. However, these seem more formal de facto exams so maybe that doesn’t apply.

As for us as tutors, I guess it works like coursework/assignments? My tentative plan is to use the assessments as areas to study.


Hi @Dylan - yes, I agree. I guess my confusion comes from the fact that I’m getting the impression that these ‘assessments’ are actually pretty formal (rather than initial ‘informal’ assessments, as I had assumed they would be initially).

As @ATA has said, teachers know their students the best and will give them the grade they deserve. I think (for now at least), like you Dylan, I will happily give ‘pointers’ and more generalised suggestions for answering the assessments but not give a blow by blow account (i.e. a mark scheme :joy:)…

Thank for your thoughts @Julia, @ATA and @Dylan - they have been very helpful!


It is very confusing and a fine line to tread between guidance and answering the question lol I teach Science at GCSE also and one of my students who is home-schooled is still waiting to hear from the school as to what topics will be covered and therefore what any assessments will be based on. I have created a revision schedule with her and we are just going by what would be covered in each paper but from the school’s reactions, not all topics might have been covered and therefore not be in the assessments being created by them.
Conversely, I have an English GCSE student who will not be covering any of the poetry aspects and been told that their Lit question will be based on Lady Macbeth, so guess that’s what we will be focusing on tomorrow :woman_shrugging:

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In Scotland the SQA exam board still publishes Higher Maths Paper 1 from 2016 to 2019 . However for many weeks the second half of these documents - Paper 2 has been blank. Elsewhere on the web Dunblane School has a web site with many more years of past papers. They too no longer publish paper 2 from years 2016-2019.

Personally I had until I read Rosie’s post treated this as a glitch in the system and did the obvious thing and continued to use Paper 2 questions from recent exams. Easy for me to do - I own books with those recent exams, questions and the mark scheme and answers.

It appears that exam board has not realised that once material has been published it can not be unpublished.

In the interest of fairness to others teaching Higher Maths in Scotland. Dunblane school still publish solutions to all previous Higher Maths exams. Since its Maths deducing the question is near trivial.


Really interesting point @Philip Phillip. This year has been so full of uncertainty and sometimes it can hit in unexpected ways!

It’s been absolutely crazy - I’m really drained! It doesn’t help that different schools are doing different things, and in some cases, students don’t have a clue what they’re doing, and it’s been a real battle to get information from them sometimes (often through no fault of their own).
Roll on 28th May when it’s all over! Seriously, at times, it has been fun, I’m enjoying learning new information and it’s so interesting seeing how different schools do different things. My wonderful students are mainly coping amazingly and deserve a lot of praise - but can’t help but feel we do too! :slight_smile:


@katywilson6 - I saw your post last night and felt exactly the same! I’m so incredibly proud of my students right now but it’s hard to keep up with what every single school / exam board is doing.

I had thought OCR A hadn’t released their assessment questions yet, but they have, it’s just not that easy to find on the website.

Here they are, in case anyone was wondering:


I also noticed that the AQA questions, at least for A-Level chemistry, include 2018 questions - so watch out for that :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Sigh, thank goodness for the amazing teachers who are working so hard to assess their students fairly…

Roll on May 28th indeed! I might need to book myself a little staycation :wine_glass: :sun_with_face: :laughing:

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It’s very confusing for all concerned.

Edexcel have released, amongst other things:

(1) Summer 2021 assessment materials for students
(2) Summer 2021 assessment materials for centres

It seems reasonable to help students understand the assessment material provided for them.

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Yes, it seems a different story for each exam board …