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What Happens if You Miss a GCSE Exam?

What Happens if You Miss a GCSE Exam?

David PetersonGrowth & Product manager
April 24, 20243 min read

Think about it. There are almost 35,000 secondary schools in England alone. Every year, around 620,000 individual GCSEs are taken and nearly all of them require students to sit more than one exam. So in total, there are well over a million opportunities for students to miss a GCSE exam. 

Students missing GCSE exams is probably more common than you think. People often get ill. Cars break down. All sorts of personal disasters can and do strike during exam season. The question is, if any of these happen to you, what should you do?

Communication Is Key

Whatever your specific circumstances, you need to let your school exams officer know as soon as possible. The exams officer is the person responsible for making sure your school’s exams comply with all JQC guidelines.

Make sure you call them, don’t just email. If you have to leave a message with the school receptionist, make sure you request that the exams officer calls you back as a matter of urgency. Do not rest until either you or your parent or guardian have spoken to the exams officer. 

The exams officer will then speak with the school senior leadership team and decide what happens next. Can you sit the exam at another time? Or are you eligible for ‘special consideration’?

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What if I’m Running Late for My GCSE Exam?

Even if there is a slight possibility of you being late, let your school or college know immediately. Nobody is allowed to leave the exam hall for the first hour, so the contents of the paper are still unknown to the outside world during that time. 

There is a good chance your school will let you sit the exam in a separate room with a slightly delayed start and finish time if you can get there within the hour. 

Study on the go with the Albert Teen app:

What Happens if You Are Ill for a GCSE Exam?

Sickness and injury are just as likely to happen during your GCSEs as at any other time. This might mean you have to sit the missed exams at the next available opportunity. And the next opportunity is normally the following autumn.

However, waiting until autumn may not be a feasible option if you need your grades to get into college and begin A-level courses. In these circumstances, you might be granted ‘special consideration’. This means a grade can be awarded based on your performance in other exam papers, mocks and class assessments.

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What Circumstances Allow You to Be Given Special Consideration?

To receive special consideration, you must:

  • Have studied all aspects of the specified content.

  • Have completed at least one whole exam that makes up no less than 15% of the total assessment

  • Have experienced short-term illness, injury or some other event beyond your control that is likely to have impacted your ability to perform in an exam to your normal standards.

These other events include things such as bereavement or family crises. Your school will be able to give you more guidance over whether your specific circumstances enable you to qualify.

What Circumstances Definitely Don’t Allow You to Qualify for Special Consideration?

If you haven’t completed any previous exam papers in a subject, and are unable to sit any later ones, you will not have completed the required 15% of the assessment materials. Therefore, you would not be eligible for special consideration for that GCSE.

You will also not be eligible for special consideration if you:

Misunderstand your exam timetable and don’t turn up on the right day or at the right time.

Don’t set an alarm and sleep through the exam.

Move house, go on holiday or attend a wedding on the day of the exam.

Making sure you’re in the exam hall at the right time and on the right day is your personal responsibility. Failure to do this, outside of the exceptional circumstances explained above, will have consequences.

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic

Your school will do everything it can to ensure you receive the grades you deserve. Procedures are in place to ensure nobody is punished for being poorly or injured and the school will contact the exam boards on your behalf. 

Contacting your school’s exams officer on the day of the exam will most likely be a new and stressful experience for you and your family. But it will be nothing new to the exams officer. They may have received similar calls that very morning. 

And even in the absolute worst-case scenario, you will just have to take the exams in a few months’ time. If you’re looking for silver linings to that cloud, that’s a few extra months to get revising. You might even end up with better grades than if you’d sat them in the summer. 

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