Note: This is a story from 2016 – the 2017 information on A-level re-marks is here.
Tomorrow thousands of teenagers will nervously open their results while anxious parents and teachers wait to hear how each of them has done in their A-level exams.
For many there will be joy, but for some, there will be disappointment. And decisions will need to be made quickly about what course of action is right for each individual pupil.
Those heading to university may decide to go through clearing, while others will want to appeal their marks.
If a student wants to go down the clearing route, Schools Week has put together a guide for how you can help them navigate the process, and has also collated the phone numbers for each university’s clearing hotline – as well as an idea of how much that will cost.
But re-marks are also an option. However, there are some changes this year to be aware of, and some differences in how each exam board deals with them.
1. The differences to re-marks this year
As Schools Week has reported previously, Ofqual is amending the rules around how enquiries and appeals can be made in a bid to prevent some students having a “second bite at the cherry”.
It means that exam boards can only change marks on review if a mistake was made in the original marking – not if the examiner disagrees with a decision. This, Ofqual says, will make the system fairer.
Schools Week has also previously reported findings from the exams regulator that examiners are “more generous” when assessing papers immediately after results days. Amanda Spielman, who is set to take over as chief inspector at Ofsted in January, said at the time that the knowledge that the re-mark would impact on university admissions “made [markers] feel really bad about marking down”.
In May, Julie Swan (pictured), executive director for general qualifications at Ofqual, said: “We don’t think it is right for students who get a review of their mark get a second bite of the cherry, where they have an opportunity to get a higher mark than the original one they were given.
“We want the system to be fairer. But this isn’t about making changes that will make it harder to have errors identified and corrected.”
A decision by Ofqual on allowing pupils to bypass their school and go straight to the exam board to request re-marks was deferred until next year. If exam boards choose, they can accept requests this year from students directly, but there is nothing forcing them to do so.
This year there will be a pilot for additional grounds for appeal in A-level geography, physics and religious studies. For those subjects, schools and colleges that “remain concerned” that a marking error has not been corrected on review can appeal on that basis.
2. How long will a re-mark take?
Not something that can be answered simply – it could take two days, it could take 22. Each year, Ofqual releases data on enquiries and appeals, which breaks down how many appeals were successful and how long each took.
One thing that changed dramatically from last year’s results was the time it took for the OCR exam board to resolve enquiries. In 2014, it took the longest out of all the boards; a non-priority review of A-level marks took almost 22 days, compared with just five for Pearson.
But last year the board quickened the pace by seven-fold and the same enquiry would have only taken, on average, three days.
For priority service 2 reviews – when a student’s higher education place depends on the outcome – OCR improved its appeals turnaround from almost 11 days in 2014, to two days last year.
The overall average across all exam boards for priority service 2 reviews last year was six days.
OCR said it made changes to its system to achieve this, including bringing “everyone together in one location”, investing in “digital working” and improving communication and tighter management.
A spokesperson said: “Last summer OCR pulled out all the stops in order to speed up exam marking enquiry resolution times. We are delighted that our turnaround time for Priority Service 2 – the most important because a university place is usually at stake – was cut from an average of 10 days to just over two days.
“We hope to maintain this performance this summer because we know that speed of turnaround is vitally important to students, their parents and their teachers.”
Students who took exams with WJEC had the longest waiting period for non-priority and priority enquiries (22 days and 12.5 days respectively). A spokesperson for the exam board re-iterated they worked within the deadlines set (30 days for non-priority and 18 for priority).
“We ensure that examiners carrying out reviews of marking carefully consider candidates’ responses in relation to the original examiner’s accurate application of the mark scheme.
“We are scanning higher volumes of exam papers this year which will speed up the reviewing process and further improve our turnaround time in informing centres of the outcomes of their service 2 applications in 2016.”
A-level results will be delivered to candidates tomorrow morning. Check back to www.schoolsweek.co.uk for our analysis and reporting.