Hundreds protesting in central London last week against arrest of former PM Imran Khan. As protests swept Pakistan, exams have been cancelled, and Cambridge has faced criticism for its handling of Pakistani admissions and assessment.Alisdare Hickson / Flickr

Cambridge University is facing widespread outrage from students in Pakistan, following AS level and A level result publication last Thursday.

Pakistani students had multiple exams cancelled in May due to the political unrest that swept the country after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested.

Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), a service that runs exams in Pakistan along with 146 other countries, calculated a new form of “assessed marks” in the absence of papers missed.

Student dissatisfaction with the grading processes triggered protests in Karachi and Lahore, with calls for CAIE and the British Council to reconsider classification models.

“Assessed marks” were calculated using grades achieved by each student in other exams in the same series, and were also accompanied by a return to pre-pandemic grade standards, realigned to 2019 levels.

Alongside protests, students took to Twitter, posting under the hashtag “CambridgeReviseOurGrades”.

Criticisms targeted both the “assessed marks” and the decision to align grading standards with those of Ofqual, an English body which regulates exam boards.

Resits will be offered for exams cancelled between the 10th and 12th of May, CAIE have confirmed.

Students will not have to pay the portion of the exam fee charged by Cambridge, CAIE told Varsity, although the British Council in Pakistan are yet to confirm entry costs.


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In a statement to Varsity, a spokesperson for CAIE emphasised that “our exam results are fair and valid, even where students missed some components due to the disruption”.

“Assessed marks are a well-established and reliable process that enables us to calculate marks for a missing paper, based on the student’s marks for the papers they sat in the same exam series,” the spokesperson said.

The Cambridge International AS & A levels in 2023 were the exam board’s largest series yet, releasing results to over half a million students.