COVID-19: Dubai students may be asked to take ‘mini exams’ for GCSE, A-level grades


Dubai students taking their GCSE and A-levels could be asked to take ‘mini-exams’ to help determine their grades.

Summer GCSE and A-level exams have already been cancelled in the UK due to the impact of Covid-19, with teachers set to grade their students for a second year running.

Exam boards would write the trimmed-down papers, which students will take at the request of their teachers. The papers would then be marked by the teachers and would be used as part of the basis of a student’s grade.

Brendon Fulton, executive principal of Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park, said: “Unfortunately, the UK Department of Education and Ofqual have not released details on this yet. We were expecting these on February 22, but the announcement has been delayed.”

School heads explain that mini exams would look like mock examinations, which are usually used to determine the level/grade at which students are working.

These mini exams are set to emulate external formal exams as closely as possible, Fulton added. “Schools will rely on their knowledge and understanding of this process, as well as legacy exam papers and information, to create tests and a testing scenario that interrogates a student’s knowledge at a similar level to that of the formal exam process.”

Simon Jodrell, principal of Dubai British School, Emirates Hills, said that while they are also waiting for guidelines from the UK government, they have assessment procedures in place.

“We regularly assess the performance of our students through a variety of methods. All students from Years 7-13 take assessments which increase in length and difficulty as the students’ progress through the schools. For our Year 11 and 13 students, the assessments that they will be taking over the coming few days, weeks and months will mirror as much as possible the ‘usual’ examinations in each subject so that if we are required to submit grades we can do so with confidence and integrity. Our staff has been working hard over recent weeks to design suitable assessments for our students,” Jodrell said.

Another school, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail, has been preparing for the current exam scenario since last summer. Gemma Thornley, secondary principal, said: “As schools, we have to look at how ongoing and rigorous assessment plays a role in ensuring fair and equitable outcomes for all our students.”

Shedding light on the new mini exams, Thornley added: “The end-of-year formalised exam season will look very much like the mock examination season does in many schools across the UAE; a timetable will be drawn up, study leave will be offered, and there will be time to revise and consolidate learning with teachers.

“Students will also sit their examinations in a formal setting with external invigilators. The only difference will be that the exam papers will be marked internally rather than sent away. Many of our teachers are trained exam board markers for their subjects, and that expert knowledge will be put to excellent use.”

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