Update for Cambridge schools on 2021 exams – 11 February 2021  

To all Cambridge schools worldwide, 

Our update today includes a reminder of our approach to 2021 exams, and more information on how grading will work for candidates that have special consideration.

You will also find an update on entry deadlines for the June 2021 series, and the latest news on our Checkpoint series.  

As always, we are very grateful for the questions and suggestions you have been sharing with us.  Please continue to contact us wherever you have questions. 

We plan to send another update next week. 

A reminder of our approach for the June 2021 exam series  

We have set out three elements of our approach to keep students safe and help them to progress with their education in the fairest way possible:  

  • We continue to plan for exams to go ahead in June 2021 where it is permitted and safe. We know exams are the fairest and most accurate way of assessing students’ performance, and we see that the balance of opinion among schools is that exams go ahead where they can.  
  •  We are helping schools manage the impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning by offering: 
  • For the small number of countries and regions within countries where directives from national or local authorities make it impossible for exams go ahead, we are looking at switching from exams to an approach based on teacher assessment. We will manage standards in 2021 with the aim of ensuring that grades are comparable whichever route a student takes. 

We’re sorry this is taking time. As the world’s largest provider of international qualifications for 5-19 year olds, working with schools in many different countries, we have to take account of different requirements in different places, and make sure we can deliver a solution that meets as many needs as possible. We completely understand that teachers, students and parents want clarity, and we remain very grateful for your patience.

We attach a letter you may like to share with students and parents, setting out our approach.  

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. 

  1. We work out the total marks for component 2 for all the Cambridge candidates worldwide who took it alongside components 1 and 3. 

  1. 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.  

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.  

Entries and withdrawals for June 2021 


Extension of entry deadline for June 2021 

We have extended the June 2021 first-time entry deadline from 21 February to 7 March 2021 (23:59 GMT)* to allow schools more time to work out which option is right for their situation.  

We strongly encourage you to make entries as early as possible, ideally before the deadline, even if you are uncertain of the situation in your country or region, so that we can make sure we get your questions papers to you on time.  

If your circumstances change and you need to withdraw your entries because of Covid-19, you will receive a full credit. This applies even up to seven days after the final exam of the syllabus affected.  

* This does not apply to Cambridge Checkpoint - the deadline for entries is still 21 February, because Checkpoint tests start much earlier (on 5 April) and we need the time to despatch question papers.   

Late entries 

After 7 March, you can make late entries and amendments until 17 April, although you will be charged a late fee under our usual rules. 

Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary Checkpoint – May 2021 test series 

We continue to plan to offer Cambridge Checkpoint tests for our May 2021 series where it is safe and permitted to do so. We include details and updates in our exams officers monthly eNews, please make sure you are receiving this.   

Frequently asked questions 


When will June 2021 results be released?  

We plan to release results for all qualifications except Cambridge Pre-U from 05:00 GMT/UTC* on 12 August 2021. We will confirm the results release date for Cambridge Pre-U as soon as we can.  
*UTC is Coordinated Universal Time and is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. GMT is Greenwich Mean Time. 

Staying in touch 


You can find all of our advice on our website at 
If you have any questions, you can review our frequently asked questions, or contact us via: 
We wish everyone in the Cambridge International community well at this time. 

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