What Happens if You Miss an A-Level Exam?

In A-Level by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

A-Level exams can be a very difficult time for many students. For most of us, they signal skyrocketing stress levels, late nights, and last-minute revision sessions. Missing an exam after all that hard work and effort can be a moment right out of a nightmare – But what do you actually do if you miss one?

When a student misses an exam for specific reasons, such as an illness or malpractice by the centre, the student can receive an estimated mark given by the awarding body. This would be subject to certain rules from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). Students may also have the option to retake their exams. If the exam is missed for an unrecognised reason the student will receive a fail.

After reading this article you will be able to answer the question of what truly happens when you miss an exam.  

What are Your Options if You Miss an A-Level Exam?

Essentially, there are two main pathways for you to choose: re-taking your components (i.e., all the papers you were supposed to take in this academic year) or accept your estimated grades given by the exam board. It is strongly recommended that you first speak to your teachers or counsellor to guide you on the best possible option available to you. These two options are further broken down below:  

i) Accepting Estimated Grades

If you have already applied for special consideration (“a post-exam adjustment made to a candidate’s mark, by an awarding body, to make allowances for some adverse circumstances”) and are approved, then you will get an estimated grade. An estimated grade is calculated based on your previous progress in the course and a formula created by the exam board. At a glance, the combination of factors would include: 

  • Mock examination(s) results  
  • Test scores throughout the year  
  • Coursework internal and/or external moderation (if applicable)  
  • National average of the students who sat for that particular component 

Please note that whether you are eligible for special consideration depends on a case-to-case basis. Your centre will submit it for you under normal circumstances. But if you are a student that is a private candidate, you can still apply for it as long as you provide the required evidence and fulfil the criteria. However, if the grade you receive is not the true reflection of what you truly feel you could have achieved, then you can sit for the retakes in the next exam session. These usually take place in October-November.  

To find out if you are accepted under the special consideration option, check this guide out.   

ii) Re-taking Your A-Level Examinations

Retaking A-Level or AS-Level exams is not the most viable and accessible option to every student. They’re costly, time-consuming, and may require you to keep yourself on track with the course during the start of your next academic year.  

This is best the choice for you if you are absolutely sure that you can perform better by actually sitting for the exam (in case you are eligible for an estimated grade already). Sometimes, you may not be able to receive a predicted grade. In which case, this would be your only option to receiving a grade for the subject.  

Not all schools will allow you to sit for retakes, so check with your centre beforehand if you can. Another point to note is that you cannot sit for one component of the exam series only. For example, the A-Level Maths route offered by your school has a total of 4 papers. 2 to be sat for AS and the other 2 for A2. If you miss one AS paper, you will have to sit for both the papers again, instead of the only one you missed.  

A more comprehensive guide to resitting your exams can be found on this website.

The Possible Scenarios for Missing an A-Level Exam and Their Consequences 

Unforeseen situations are part of everyone’s life, and they may unfortunately, occur on the dreadful day of an exam. Panicking and stressing about it is natural but it’s important you know what to do. Not all situations are treated the same by exam boards and centres in the event of missing an exam, so here are some common occurrences and their follow-through procedures:  

i) Sickness

Falling sick is a common bodily response to the extra stress and anxiety taken on by students during exam season. The common flu, cough or fever is common for many. Over the counter medications should relieve symptoms for at least a few hours to allow you to sit your exam. Try to avoid missing an exam for small ailments like these because they generally do not qualify you for special consideration.   

However, in the case that the sickness is severe and disruptive to your ability to take the exam, put your health first. There is no point sitting for an exam that you will not be able to perform your best at.  

Contacting your exam centre (whether that be your school or sixth form college) as soon as possible should be the first course of action, under any circumstance of sickness. They will guide you through with the appropriate advice on the next step and how best to handle the situation at hand.  

ii) Weather or Travel Disruptions

Living in countries with extreme weather can bring about some out of the blue disturbances that are completely out of your control. In this case, checking the forecasted conditions in your centre’s area for exam days should be a responsible, important step as a safety precaution.  

Travel disruptions like late public transport, road accidents or even mechanical breakdowns are those incidents that just happen to be bad luck. No amount of planning or precaution can predict these. As before, immediately contact your centre to inform them of any sort of delays to see what can be done about it.   

Allocating extra travel time is always a good practice, even if there is no worrying forecast. It can save you from accidents like these. Therefore, reducing your chances of avoidable mistakes that save you from having to let all your hard work go down the drain.  

iii) Arriving Late or Leaving Early for Emergencies

As always, your first point of contact for any expected delays will be your exam centre. In some cases, with enough prior notice, you may be able to sit for the exam, depending on how late you are. Although, since this is a very volatile situation, you may probably be an exception to this rule.  

Leaving early because of emergencies like an evacuation at your examination centre (due to fires, etc), sudden illness (fainting for instance) are also situations that could occur. The invigilators and other responsible members should be able to handle it accordingly.  

iv) Not Attending for an “Invalid” Reason

According to the exam boards, there are some causes that are deemed “invalid” for special considerations. Examples of these include:  

  • Being out of state or the location for reasons that are not emergencies 
  • Minor disturbances in the exam room 
  • Misreading the timetable  
  • Having personal social engagements at the time of the exam  

At the end of the day, these sorts of mistakes can happen. Taking the time to plan, organise, being in the right state of mind is crucial when it comes to times like these. Although difficult to manage during A-Level season, simple things like relaxing, de-stressing can steer you clear of mishaps like these.   

Is Missing an A-Level Exam as Horrible as it Sounds?

To put it simply it depends on you. Everyone reacts differently to moments, so labelling an experience like this does not do it justice. At the end of the day, it is not the end of the world if you miss an exam as there are feasible options available to you. It might be a temporary hitch in your journey but won’t always determine your life beyond that.  

Universities are also usually understanding of candidates who faced grave difficulties that affected their ability to take an exam. You may most probably have to declare the cause of a resit or special consideration while you apply.  

Prestigious, top universities may not be the same as others when it comes to giving you the benefit of the doubt. No university will disqualify you outright for this reason. Doing your research before applying will give you a straightforward answer on your chances of getting an admission.  

With that being said, try not to miss an exam, unless you really have no other alternative. They may feel like the biggest ordeal you have to face, but they are only a small portion of your academic journey and life.

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