How to deal with cancelled exams and learning disruptions
Current first year students
With so much uncertainty surrounding exams and assessments this summer, we know how difficult it must be to plan ahead to University. This unknown can throw us off track a little and our thoughts may naturally turn to the worst case scenario.
This time last year, some of our current fresher year students were faced with the exact same problems of lockdown, Centre Assessed Grades and a whole lot of disruption. A few of them who are now happily placed at Loughborough wanted to share their experiences with you, to help reassure you that no matter what obstacles are thrown at us next, things will work out well in the end. Let us start looking to the best case scenario – University is said to be one of the greatest times of your life, and you have all that just around the corner to look forward to. Hang in there and stay positive!
Emilia – International Business
When I first found out that exams had been cancelled it was a very strange feeling. I suddenly had all this time on my hands which was normally filled up with revision. A hard thought for me to process was that I was no longer in control of my grades and had to put all my trust in my teachers. Though this made me very anxious at the time I had to think confidently.
I thought about all the hard work I had shown throughout my time at sixth form and how this had reflected in my mock grades and my UCAS predicted grades. So, when it came to results day I had to think positively and believe that my teachers had helped me get the grades I needed to get into Loughborough.
My best advice for current Year 13’s would be to try your best not to worry and now you don’t have exams spend your time doing stuff you enjoy that you may not have been able to do previously due to exams.
Ellie-Marie – Sport Science, Coaching and Physical Education
I can vividly remember the moment I found out my A-level exams were going to be cancelled. I had just got home from college, unaware that it was going to be my last day there as a student. I felt that we were being refused the opportunity to show our true potential, to show the effect of hours upon hours of revision and hard work, but then centre assessed grades were mentioned.
I hadn’t performed too badly in my mocks, but I knew that those grades would not get me into Loughborough University, or my insurance choice. I took 2 A-levels and a 90-credit Diploma, meaning that I could work out the grade of my diploma as it was 100% coursework based. But I couldn’t say the same for my A-level subjects. My in-class assessments varied drastically, all the way from a D to an A*, so I had no idea how my teachers would classify me and my ability. My success was no longer in my hands, but at the hands of my teachers – and the government. I remember seeing social media messages and rumours about how the area you live in and the past success of your school could affect your grades, a ‘postcode lottery’. As I went to a college, rather than a sixth form, in an area classified as ‘deprived’, I really was preparing for the worst on results day.
Results day was one of the best yet most stressful days of my life. UCAS crashed, my results arrived late by email and I even had to wait till the next day to confirm that I had been accepted into Loughborough, as I had not received my official grade or documentation from my diploma course (as they were being sent out by post instead). I already met my offer with my initial grades, but after receiving my centre assessed grades, they were even higher! It wasn’t until I received that famous golden ticket through my door that it hit me .. I was going to be going to Loughborough University!
Lilly – Sport and Exercise Science
I remember the day that it was announced on the news that exams where cancelled. And I can honestly say that I think I felt every emotion possible within those first 5 minutes of the announcement. At first I felt relief as there had been speculation for some time about whether exams would be cancelled. I then felt elated that I wouldn’t have to endure a stressful exam period. But then I began to cry knowing that I had put two years’ worth of hard work into what felt like nothing at that point. It was quite overwhelming, so if you are feeling this way please don’t worry you are not alone.
When it came to my A levels being centre assessed I did feel slightly anxious. In one subject I had only just began to start producing work at an A grade which I required to get into Loughborough (my first choice), it was notable that my teacher was on the fence what grade to ultimately give me and this made me anxious. In another subject I had been producing work of an A grade since the start of the course but had flunked my mock exam, my teacher had reassured me that all evidence of my work would be considered but self-doubt definitely kicked in in regard to whether I had done enough. And in my final A level I had proved my capabilities over and over again so realistically I had nothing to worry about and I had no doubt my teachers would give me the grade I deserved. However, I feared that the standardisation process by the exam boards would lower my grade.
In the time between the announcement and results day I was lucky enough to speak to Loughborough on two occasions, they were excellent at reassuring me and answering any questions I had about results day and joining the Loughborough community.
Five nerve racking months later I found out that I got into Loughborough! It didn’t quite sink in at first and I also got the grades I had hoped for which even exceeded the grades I required for my course.
Based upon my own experiences I have prepared some advice that I hope can help guide you through the months until you start university.
Firstly, you must think of the positives! Exams are very stressful. With them cancelled that is a big weight of your shoulders.
Have a little celebration! You may not know the outcome of your results now or what university you will be off to but remember all the effort you put into your studies. Give yourself that reward for the work you put in.
Think of a plan! You might feel like with exams cancelled that your future is out of your control. But by coming up with a plan A, B and C you will feel like you are the one in control. Make sure you are comfortable with your first and insurance choice.
You guys are lucky in the sense that you may not have responded to your offers yet, therefore spend some time to rationally evaluate your capabilities and what you were mostly likely to achieve had you taken the exam. This will help to ensure that you meet the entry requirements on results day and avoid disappointment. However, don’t let self-doubt get in the way of your goals, if you have been dreaming of a university, then go for it!
Eddie – Product Design and Technology
There were mixed reactions at my sixth form college when we were told that our 2020 A-level exams were going to be cancelled, but like most people, I was mainly relieved. Remote working had worked well at my college, but I still wasn’t looking forward to having to prepare for my exams during lockdown, especially since we wouldn’t be able to have any in-person lessons.
A lot of us were worried because we hadn’t achieved very good grades in our mock exams, and we were concerned that the college would just give us our mock results as our centre-assessed grades. However, this isn’t something that I would suggest worrying about because, like most schools and colleges, my college took all of our work into account and used it to give us the grades they thought that we would be capable of achieving in a final A-level exam.
On results day, I decided to look at my exam results before looking at my offers from universities. I would not recommend doing this. As you can probably remember, the 2020 A-level exam results were adjusted in a way that caused lots of controversy. Although I was happy with some of my results, I was extremely disappointed with the one I cared most about (Design & Technology). I found this very frustrating, because I knew from conversations with my teacher and the amount of effort that I had put in that I deserved a higher grade than this.
I received an email from my college telling me that I could contact the college’s data controller, who could tell me my centre-assessed grades. I am very happy that I did this. It turned out that the college had submitted a grade three levels higher than the one that I had been awarded- it had just been adjusted. If the government had gone ahead with the adjusted grades and I hadn’t asked to see this information, I never would have known what grade my teachers had submitted for me.
When I checked UCAS, I noticed that I had been given an offer from Loughborough University (my first choice), even though I had missed the entry requirements by one grade! I wish I had checked this first, because then I would not have been so bothered by the grades that I had been awarded.
Luckily for me, the adjusted grades were never used and I’m very happy with my A-level results. I’m now studying Design & Technology at Loughborough University, and I’m having a great time. So even though results day didn’t go exactly how I was expecting it to, things have worked out fantastically.
Jemima – English with Digital Humanities
Having my Post-16 education finish on a random day in March was not what I expected for my final year in sixth form. I was very much prepared for taking my exams in a big hall and putting in my all for that last push but that is not what happened at all.
With the announcement of my A-Levels being cancelled, I was filled with anxiety which I believe is a similar feeling for this year’s cohort as well. Grades were a big uncertainty that were not discussed at that point so naturally many students were worried about uni places. I will say that universities did a great job in communicating with their prospective students in how they were handling the situation and made clear the measures taken to make sure everyone gets a fair chance.
Like everyone, results day was a mixed bag, I was downgraded in one of my subjects which meant that I didn’t meet the terms of my conditional offer for Loughborough.
Thankfully, I secured a place here and couldn’t be happier however I know this was not the case for many who had to retake exams or take a gap year after the U-turn.
My advice to prospective students who have been impacted by the pandemic is to take it easy. Though this is a time of great uncertainty the constant worrying will only impact you negatively. Try to not get too stressed out by it all and take it in good stead.