21 May 2012

Q and A: GCSE and A-level exam re-marking explained

Following our investigation into an exam board covering up marking errors, Channel 4 News answers your questions about applying for a re-mark, the chances of changing your grade and how much it costs.

How do I apply for a re-mark?

All applications for a re-mark should be made via your school or college, (unless you are home-schooled). If you think that your result might be wrong you should speak to a teacher as soon as possible and they can submit an enquiry about results (EAR) to the relevant exam board.

Do different exam boards have different rules for re-marking?

No. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) sets the rules for all exam boards regarding the administration of re-marking. There are three different EARs available – a basic clerical check to ensure every question has been marked, a review of the original marking by a senior examiner, and a third service (usually applicable to coursework), which reviews the original marking and makes sure it was ‘fair and appropriate.

The exams watchdog, Ofqual, has this handy flow chart showing how different stages of your application are processed.

When is the deadline for applying for a re-mark?

For this year’s exams, the results will be released 16 August for A-levels, and 23 August for GCSEs, and the deadline for requesting a re-mark is 20 September.

Following the Channel 4 News investigation into marking errors by OCR examiners last year, can I apply for a re-mark for last year’s results?

OCR told Channel 4 News that the deadline for re-mark applications has passed for last year, however it is in the process of contacting the schools and colleges which submitted exam papers where whistleblower David Leitch uncovered errors. It is as yet unclear whether any other options will be available to these schools.

The JCQ, which represents all the exam boards, said that applications for re-marks cannot usually be made so far after the exam, but that exam boards make the final decision about any exceptions to the rule themselves. Depending on when the exam was set, the papers themselves may have been destroyed.

Read more from Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long: Is re-marking a luxury most schools can afford?

Do I have to pay for a re-mark?

Schools or colleges will usually foot the bill for a re-mark, but some may ask that pupils or parents pay the fee. The good news is that the cost will be refunded if the subject grade changes. The bad news? There is no refund if it is only the mark, rather than the grade, that changes. It is also worth remembering that if your mark goes down following a re-mark, it is the lower mark that will be issued.

How much does it cost?

How long is a piece of string? The fee for re-marking depends on the individual exam board, the type of re-mark you require, the paper itself and whether your school is entering multiple applications for re-marking. It can range from around £10 for a clerical re-mark to over £60 – and remember this is for each individual paper, rather than the subject. Your school/college exam office should have details for which fee applies, or you can contact the exam boards directly.

If my university place depends on a certain grade, will they allow time to wait for a re-mark?

If your university place is at risk, then your school exams officer should submit a priority service request. For this summer’s results, the deadline for submission is 24 August, 2012, and any re-mark will be done within 18 days. Ofqual advises that you tell your intended university your result is still pending and keep it informed. But whether the admissions office waits for the outcome is down to the discretion of individual universities.

What are the chances of my grade improving after a re-mark?

Based on requests for re-marks and grade changes for summer 2011 exams, 19 per cent resulted in a change to subject grade. In total, there were 204,600 re-mark applications last summer (out of 15.1 million GCSE, AS and A-level scripts marked by the exam boards): 12,250 produced changes to AS and A-Level results, and 26,270 for GCSE results.

Read more: Exams whistleblower says ‘thousands’ of papers could be wrong

Can decisions be appealed?

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of a remark, you can appeal to the exam board and ultimately to the independent Examination Appeals Board (EAB). Qfqual told Channel 4 News that students, parents or teachers can also contact them directly with concerns and the regulator will investigate if it thinks something has gone wrong.

What happens if I want a re-mark but my school doesn’t agree?

Schools and colleges are required to have formal procedures in place for handling any disputes if the school or college does not support a student’s request. The exam regulator, Ofqual, also told Channel 4 News: “In deciding whether to support an enquiry or appeal, schools and colleges should take account of all relevant factors and afford candidates or their carers a reasonable opportunity to express their views.”

What action does Ofqual take against exam boards that have made marking mistakes?

Ofqual required exam boards to have procedures already in place for post-results enquiries, and for quality assurance. When things go wrong, the regulator can ask for certain action to be taken, it can impose a fine or in extreme cases, it has the power to withdraw an awarding organisation’s recognition in full or with regard to specific qualifications.

Is any action taken against examiners individually?

Examiners, the majority of whom are teachers, are contracted to the exam boards and are obliged to fulfil the terms of their contracts. If their work is “not satisfactory” – i.e. if they have made errors in their marking – then the exam boards can end those contracts.