Cambridge Announcement about June 2021 Exams

10 December 2020

Cambridge Assessment International Education made a statement about their plans for May/June 2021 exams stating that exams will be held normally.

Here is the statement content


Our exams in 2021

In recent weeks, we’ve been engaging with schools worldwide to understand their wishes and requirements for exams in March, June and November 2021, what would work for them and how we can best support them.

A clear majority of schools told us they want Cambridge International to give students the opportunity to sit exams on the full syllabus if they can. They also want us to help them manage the impact of the pandemic in a way that is fair to everyone.

At the same time, schools told us they would like us to maintain robust qualifications and trust in the system, and to ensure universities recognise Cambridge qualifications.

Schools in different countries are in different situations. In some countries, schools have reopened and are now teaching full timetables. In other countries, schools are still facing disruption, and may have lost teaching and learning time. In others, schools have been closed and will remain closed for some time ahead. An optimum solution for one country can be unhelpful or unworkable for others.

Therefore, we are providing a package of options* that works for as many schools as possible, to keep people safe and help students progress by:

  • providing our normal exams series in March, June and November 2021
  • helping schools manage the impact of the pandemic and make exams as fair as possible.

What schools need to know

We will provide exams for your students, if your government says it’s safe for you to run them:

  • We will hold our normal exam series in March, June and November 2021.
  • We have published the final exam timetables for March and June 2021 exam series, so you can plan revision with confidence. We will not change these timetables.
  • We’ve adapted our guidance on running exams to help you adapt to different circumstances.

Exams remain the best way of assessing student achievement. We strongly encourage schools to enter students for all relevant components where they can.

We are making exams as fair as possible for students and helping schools manage the impact of the pandemic:

  • We have already made adjustments to many aspects of the work students need to do – coursework, speaking tests, science practicals and more. This information is on our website
  • Schools can also request exemptions from components – such as speaking tests and science practicals. Exemptions can be requested in cases where teaching or assessment was disrupted by the pandemic where it required:
    • working with others in a way that wasn’t possible due to Covid-19
    • access to facilities or equipment in a way that wasn’t possible.
    • full list of syllabuses and exemptions will be available from 10 December on our website. Schools can tell us until 8 January if they think our criteria mean we should add any further components.
    • For the March 2021 series, you can apply for exemptions from 6 to 17 January 2021. For the June 2021 series, you can apply from mid-January (we will confirm the precise date as soon as possible) until 17 April. We will share the application form and instructions with March 2021 centres by 6 January and with June 2021 centres in mid-January.
    • More detail about requesting exemptions is included in the attached document Covid exemptions 2021. We will share the application form and more instructions in mid-January. If your school works with us through a Cambridge Associate or the British Council, you should apply through them. Private candidates need to apply for exemptions through their test centre.
    • The content and format of the exams will be the same as normal.
    • The awarding standard of our exams in 2021 will continue to align with the standard set for parallel qualifications in England, as stated in our Code of Practice.
    • If your students miss some components of the exam, we may be able to award a grade based on components they have taken.

We recognise that our package of measures does not, and cannot, resolve every impact that Covid-19 could cause you and your students.

University recognition

University recognition of our qualifications is a fundamental part of their value. Without university recognition, even the highest grades would fail to help students win places on degree courses.

Universities worldwide recognise Cambridge International qualifications because they are rigorous, reliable and prepare students well for university study. However, university systems in different countries work independently from each other and do not always have common criteria for recognising qualifications.

Our recognition team will be working with universities in all regions so that they understand our approach for 2021 to make informed admission and credit decisions.

Webinars for exams officers 20 and 21 January 2021

Exams officers at Cambridge International Schools can join a free exams officer update webinar on 20 and 21 January 2021. We will focus on information about the June 2021 series, highlight our latest updates, and remind you about our deadlines. The webinars are your opportunity to ask us questions. We will send an email to all our exams officers on 10 December with registration links to the webinars. The capacity for each webinar is 500 attendees – please only register one exams officer from your school.

How does this approach compare with the UK?

Many Cambridge International schools are interested in how exams for Cambridge International qualifications relate to exams for similar qualifications used by schools in the UK.

It’s essential that we meet the needs of different communities of schools across the world, but also align with the standards set in England.

The four nations of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) are each handling 2021 exams differently. Cambridge International is most like England in that we are:

  • fully committed to holding exams in 2021
  • aligning our awarding standard to England, as stated in our Code of Practice
  • not reducing content
  • awarding grades to students who have been able to take some of the components
  • confirming our list of in-exam aids, such as calculators.

We vary from England in some areas in that we are:

  • offering exemptions to components such as science practicals and speaking tests
  • not offering advance notice of topics
  • offering an exam series in November for students who miss exams in June
  • not offering reserve papers in July 2021 if a student can’t take any exams.

We are fully committed to ensuring that Cambridge students compete on an equal basis with those holding similar qualifications from other boards.

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