Special consideration for June 2021: calculating a grade when some components are missing
In our update to schools on 4 February, we announced that we are temporarily expanding our special consideration process for students who, for an acceptable reason, miss some components they were entered for. As long as these students have taken at least one component, they can still receive a grade (for A Levels, at least one 'A2' component must be taken).
We want to share with you more details about how we calculate these grades.
How do we calculate marks for missing components?
To work out a grade when a student has missed one or more components, we generate marks – which we call ‘assessed marks’ – for the missing components based on the candidate’s performance in their other components in the syllabus.
We work out what position the candidate is in, compared to all the other candidates, for the components they took. We put the candidate in the same position for the component(s) they missed. We check what mark candidates would normally receive in that position on the list, and give them those marks.
For example, you might enter a candidate for a syllabus that has three components. The candidate takes component 2, but is absent from component 1 and component 3 for an acceptable reason.
We work out the total marks for component 2 for all the Cambridge candidates worldwide who took it alongside components 1 and 3.
We look at the candidate’s total mark for component 2. We find out what position this puts the candidate in compared to all other Cambridge candidates who took component 2 alongside components 1 and 3.
We look at the marks scored by the same group of candidates for components 1 and 3. The assessed marks that we give the candidate for these components puts them in the same position, compared to all Cambridge candidates, as they are in for the component they actually took.
The assessed marks for the missed components are added to the candidate’s mark for component 2, and we give a syllabus grade in the usual way.
Are assessed marks fair?
Yes. In our Code of Practice, we say that candidates will be treated fairly in all circumstances (Aim 5.2). To treat candidates fairly, our special considerations will not give a candidate receiving them an advantage over other candidates (5.2i).
The method we use to produce assessed marks reflects a candidate’s position relative to the other candidates for the components they have all done. This means it is designed to make sure that achieving each assessed mark is neither easier nor harder than achieving the same mark through completing the exam.
Of course, we strongly recommend that students plan to take all the components they can - it’s better educationally and fairer for students, and reduces the risk that a student misses every component and cannot be given a grade.
Do assessed marks give candidates the same grade they would have got if they had taken the component?
We are confident that grades awarded where candidates have assessed marks are appropriate because the way that they are produced does not give candidates an advantage or disadvantage.
There are syllabuses where performance on the different components does not always correlate strongly. It may be that some candidates perform better on paper 1 than on paper 2, while other candidates perform better on paper 2 than on paper 1. Where this is the case, it is possible that a candidate’s grade using an assessed mark might not be the same as the grade they would have got from taking the component. However, to treat all candidates equally, we award an assessed mark that reflects a candidate’s position relative to the other candidates for the components they have all done.