Pupils could sit fewer GCSEs and have more optional questions next summer to help children catch up after coronavirus.
Proposals have been unveiled today that could add “a greater choice” of questions – to give pupils more scope over what subject they want to answer.
The plan – which excludes English, maths and sciences – would allow for students who don’t have time to learn the entire syllabus in time.
As previously announced, exam boards are also looking at pushing back the entire GCSE season next year so that exams only begin from June 7.
If that happened, the overall number of exams might have to be reduced to allow more time for teaching.
The length of each exam would likely have to rise in return.
While it makes no decisions, the consultation document raised the option of reducing the overall number of GCSEs.
It said: “If the exams were longer and public health safeguards remain in place next year, schools and colleges might find the exam series more difficult to manage.
“They might be required to clean exam desks and chairs between morning and afternoon exam sessions, for which there would be less time if the exams were longer.
“However, if there were fewer exams overall the exam timetable could be more manageable, shorter and, therefore, more easily delayed.
“This would free up more time for teaching.”
Ofqual has launched a two-week consultation on its plans for the GCSE and A-level exam series in 2021.
It comes after students have faced months of school and college closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The watchdog is considering how next year’s exam timetable could be changed to allow more time for teaching.
The regulator has asked exam boards to consider if GCSE results could come back in time for August 26.
But Ofqual admitted: “We recognise that to allow time for marking, GCSE results might also have to be delayed.”
The watchdog is also proposing removing the need for GCSE students to undertake science practicals.
And it has suggested that work relating to GCSE geography fieldwork should not be assessed in 2021.
It comes as the Government has released guidance on reopening schools in England to all pupils from September – which says schools will be expected to deliver their full curriculum ahead of exams in 2021.
But in exceptional circumstances, the advice says a Year 11 pupil could be allowed to discontinue a subject if the school judges that they would perform significantly better in English and mathematics.
And the guidance accepts the curriculum may be severely disrupted at the start of the 2020/21 school year to help students catch up.