School examiners in the UK are being asked to be generous when marking test papers taken against the backdrop of Covid lockdowns.
Pupils also learnt they will be given advance details of the topic areas that will be tested so that they can focus on that work rather than trying to revise everything.
Exam regulators, boards and the government said the extra help was a fair way to deal with the ramifications of Covid lockdowns on education, but some teacher unions warned the measures were coming too late.
“Exams are the best and fairest form of assessment, and we firmly intend for them to take place this summer, giving students a fair chance to show what they know,” Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said.
“We know students have faced challenges during the pandemic, which is why we've put fairness for them at the forefront of our plans.
“The information to help with their revision published today, as well as the range of other adaptations, will make sure they can do themselves justice in their exams this summer.”
Grade boundaries could be more generous in some cases, with a lower score across papers needed to secure a particular grade, but examiners' generosity could be more wide-ranging, the exam boards say.
Boards have published some details of the topics that will appear in exams for all subjects except English literature, history, ancient history, geography and art and design
Dr Jo Saxton, at the Ofqual exams regulator, said pupils had shown resilience during the pandemic but there needed to be a safety net for the exams.
“Advance information published today is one of the ways we are supporting students to have that certainty as they prepare to show what they know and can do,” she said.
“We are also ensuring there is a safety net for students with a generous approach to grading.”
The advance information is designed to help pupils prepare but will not give so much detail about the likely questions that answers can be learnt by rote.
Advance information will not always list every topic covered because boards are concerned that could lead to excessive revision of one topic.
For some text-based subjects, such as English language, the advance information may include the genre or period that unseen texts used during exams will be drawn from.
Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for school leaders' union NAHT, said advance material “should now provide teachers and students some help on where to focus their teaching, revision and exam preparations".
“Advance information is not a simple list of what is assessed in the exam; the information is more complex, covers only high tariff questions and might relate to only a particular exam paper or section of it, with different approaches between specifications and subjects,” she said.
“We would urge everyone to recognise that students have endured during one of the most pivotal period of their lives which can be pressurised even in 'normal' years. They simply want a fair shot at success in their exams this summer.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the release of the advance information had come “too late".
She said NEU members had called for the release of advance information at the start of the academic year, and the information being released now would create additional stress for pupils.
“If one of the topics you see on the list today is one you couldn't cover at all or in as much depth through no fault of your own, due to Covid-related disruption, what do you do now?” she said.