Exam results 2021: What you need to know about Ofqual appeals

Exams regulator Ofqual has published full details of how students can access its Exam Procedures Review Service this year.

The review forms the final stage in the process of appealing grades. The first stage is a school review to check if any administrative errors have been made.

A student can then appeal to the exam board to check whether the processes have been following and if the grade is a “reasonable exercise of academic judgement”.

If a student is still unhappy, they can appeal to Ofqual on the grounds that the exam board has made a procedural error. A-level results will be released on Tuesday and GCSE results day is next Thursday.

Here’s what you need to know…


1. Ofqual reviews can’t change grades

Students can ask Ofqual to look at how an exam board dealt with the appeal against their grade. The regulator will consider if the board followed their own procedures correctly, as well as Ofqual’s rules.

But Ofqual has warned its reviews won’t look again at a students’ work, and it cannot change a student’s grade.

Instead, Ofqual can ask an exam board to look again at the students’ appeal if the regulator thinks a mistake was made when issuing the grade or when considering the appeal.

Ofqual says it will “look at cases as quickly as we can”.

Once it has all the information it needs about the case, Ofqual aims to make an initial decision within four weeks, but warn “it might take us longer”.

If the regulator then needs to go further and hold a meeting with the student and the board, the case “might take longer to finish”.


3. Apply within 3 weeks of exam board appeal

Students should appeal as soon as possible after getting a final appeal decision from the exam board.

If students wait more than three weeks after that decision, they will need to tell Ofqual why there was a delay. There’s a risk the regulator may not accept the application.

A student should email with the subject line of “EPRS application”.

This year, students can apply to the EPRS themselves, but can ask for their school’s support.

The email should say:

1. The qualification a student wants Ofqual to look as, such as GCSE, AS or A-level.

2. The name and address of the school which decided the TAGs

3. The name of the exam board

4. And the date of the letter from the board with the final appeal decision.

3. One of four choices on what went wrong

If Ofqual thinks it can investigate the case, it will send the student a link to a form – all of the questions in the form must be answered.

Students need to tell Ofqual what went wrong, which must be one of the following:

1. A mistake made by the exam board when it issued a grade.

2. A mistake made by the exam board when it corrected the grade after the centre review or appeal.

3. The exam board did not deal with the appeal in the way it said it would in the JCQ appeals booklet or on the exam board’s own website.

4. The exam board did something which our rules don’t allow, or did not do something which the rules say they must do.

A student should explain what they think happened, and what should have happened instead.

They should also send a copy of the exam board’s final appeal letter and give Ofqual permission to ask the school and the board for information to help with the case.


4. If Ofqual doesn’t think anything went wrong…

Ofqual will write to the student and explain what it has looked at and why it didn’t think anything went wrong.

Students will be given the chance to reply and explain if they think Ofqual missed or misunderstood something.

Ofqual will set a timeframe for how long a student has to respond and if it doesn’t hear back, the case will be closed.

If they do reply, the regulator will say if it’s changed its view.

5. But if something did go wrong…

Ofqual will write to the board and ask whether they agree with its decision. If the board agrees, Ofqual would “usually” expect them to look at the case again.

But if the board doesn’t agree, Ofqual will look at whether any extra information the board provided changes its mind.

If Ofqual still think something went wrong, it will invite the student (and a parent, carer or teacher if they wish) and the exam board to a remote meeting.

After that, if Ofqual’s final decision is that the exam board has done something wrong, it will send a letter to the board and student.

The board must “give due regard” to this – so think about any recommendations Ofqual makes and decide what to do next. It could mean looking at the appeal again.

But importantly, Ofqual cannot tell the exam board to change the grade. The grade will only change if the board decides it is wrong and needs to be corrected – and could go up or down.

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