Optional questions, length and format of papers

We have considered feedback about the use of optional questions. Many respondents arguing in favour of optional questions were in ekg Technician national test  fact discussing introducing a choice of topics on which students will be examined, similar to the changes proposed for GCSE history and ancient history and (now) GCSE English literature in 2021. We appreciate why optional questions might appear attractive, but evidence indicates this can have unintended consequences – with some students, particularly those who tend to perform less well in exams, doing worse when given more freedom over question choice.

Similarly, we received a range of responses to our proposal that exam boards should not generally change the length or format of their exam papers, except where needed to accommodate other agreed changes to the exams. While some respondents argued for shorter and/or fewer papers and some for different question styles such as multiple choice questions, others shared our concern that the lack of familiarity could have a negative impact on students’ preparation – particularly those with a special educational need or disability. Having considered the responses in detail, we have decided it is in students’ best interests if exam boards do not make these changes, except where needed to accommodate the specific changes to the exams we have set out.


We also sought views on possible changes to the summer 2021 timetable. While there was general support for a delay to the exams, to allow more time for teaching, respondents were less positive about this if it meant a potential delay to results. We will continue to work with the DfE, exam boards, regulators in Wales and Northern Ireland, and groups representing schools, colleges and higher education to consider the best approach, and we will confirm our decisions as soon as possible.


We understand students and teachers want reassurance about how outcomes might be protected through our approach to grading next year, as we did to protect the interests of students who took the reformed qualifications for the first time. This will play an important part in our overall support for the 2021 cohort. We are considering our approach and will provide further information in due course.

Contingency plans

In line with the Secretary of State’s letter to Ofqual, we are planning for exams and assessments to be taken next year. Nonetheless, we recognise there could be further disruption next year. We will continue to develop contingency measures, exploring different options.

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