Students check out their A Level results at GEMS Jumeirah College in Dubai
Students check out their A-Levels results at GEMS Jumeirah College in Dubai. Picture for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Students globally, including those in the UAE, whose A-Level results were downgraded will soon receive new results — restored to predicted grades — Cambridge International said on Monday.

It follows widespread criticism about grades being marked down, at times by more than two grade levels, for almost two in five students.

See more

A-Levels (Advanced Levels) are school-leaving exams whose results determine college and university entrance prospects. This time around, the dismal grades seemed to have jeopardised admission prospects of many students around the world, including those here in the UAE.

What caused the controversy

As A-Levels exams could not be held in June this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, board officials decided to moderate grades using a different process. This was done based on predicted grades and ranks based on assessments by the school teachers, overall school-wide performance historically in the exams, global performance stats and a computer programme to “statistically standardise” the grades.

The process was meant to take out “teacher bias” and “grade inflation”, but in the process, it led to many traditionally high-performing students in low-performing schools receive lower than predicted grades, because of the algorithm model used.

What will happen to the grades now?

In Monday’s update on its website, Cambridge International, a main United Kingdom exam board also conducting A-Levels exams abroad, said: “We have decided that grades we issue for the June 2020 series will not be lower than the predicted grade submitted by the school. Where a grade we issued last week was higher than the predicted grade, the higher grade will stand.”

When will the new results be declared?

The Cambridge statement added: “We will issue new grades as soon as possible. We will also share the new grades with universities and admissions organisations as soon as we can in the coming days. We will post the new grades to Cambridge International Direct.”

Until the new grades come out, schools can share with students the predicted grades they had sent to Cambridge “to provide immediate certainty”. More guidance will be sent to schools on Wednesday.

The development follows days of clamour to review the downgraded results since they were released last Thursday. Students who had taken subjects for AS-Levels (Advanced Subsidiary) and IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) under Cambridge had also received their results.

‘We got our rights’

Hussain El Sayed Ismail, an Egyptian father in Sharjah, said the “U-turn” on the grading policy “has put things on the correct path”.

“I feel very comfortable now that the students will not be harmed. Of course, my son and I are definitely pleased we got our rights. We were not asking for anything more,” he added.

Ismail said his son’s “forecast” grades, which may or may not be different from the predicted grades, were A*, B, C, C, but the awarded grades were E, D, B, B.

‘We hope they will be fair’

A Jordanian parent in Sharjah said his son’s two AS-Level grades were the lowest possible — U and a C. Imad Al Qaddoumi now hopes those grades will mirror the grades predicted — A, B, C.

“The grades he now gets may not be exactly as forecast, but we hope they will mostly be fair. This is what we’re looking for as a minimum. We appreciate the fairness and transparency that will now be done in the recording of students’ marks. There need to be clear controls and processes in place especially during these challenging times that we are all facing,” Al Qaddoumi said.

Remaining issues

Shaurya Chandrawanshi, who graduated from a UK school in Dubai, had missed his conditional offer from a London-based university by one letter grade. He was expecting three A*, but received two A* and a B. Chandrawanshi welcomed the U-turn, but said the development raised two issues regarding university admissions.

“After the predicted grades are used, there will be more admission offers than university seats available. So universities will have to give an offer to some students for the next year instead, not for the September intake. Or they could raise their grade requirements and that way also some students will be left out,” he said.

Read more

Approaching deadline

The other point that Chandrawanshi mentioned was regarding the timeline of the process. Universities in the UK have a cut-off date of September 7. Now the problem is that students who are awaiting revised grades, will have to apply to the university concerned again, get a confirmation and then apply for a student visa — all before the cut-off date, which is less than three weeks away.