News story: Fairness at the heart of proposed changes to marking reviews and appeals system

These changes are underpinned by research which shows inconsistency in how marks have been reviewed in the past. This is unfair on those students who do not ask for a review of their marks. Mark changes will only be permitted in future where there is a marking error.

Ofqual has held extensive consultation with schools’ groups, subject associations, teachers and students. We have listened carefully to their views and decided that from this summer exam boards:

  • must tell examiners who review results that they should not change marks unless there is a clear marking error
  • must monitor their reviewers to make sure that they are acting consistently
  • must continue to make AS and A level scripts available to those schools who want them ahead of the closing date for reviews and will be able to choose to do the same for GCSE scripts
  • will have to categorise the reasons about why a result has or has not been changed and, when requested to do so, provide this information to the centre or student

A pilot exercise will also be run this summer in 3 A level subjects (maths, geography and religious studies). In these subjects, the grounds for appeal following a review will be extended to enable schools to appeal the mark a student was given if the school believes a marking error was not corrected during the review. Ofqual will evaluate the impact of, and outcomes from, the pilot and decide in 2017 whether, and in what form, to roll this out more widely.

Sally Collier, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator, said:

Exam boards must absolutely correct marking errors, and do it quickly. This is a priority that we take very seriously. However, there is a common perception that there is always a single ‘right mark’ or a ‘wrong mark’ for some more extended answers and this is a misunderstanding. The current review system exacerbates this as marks that have been given by one professional are often substituted by another professional with, usually, a higher mark. Professional judgement needs to be exercised, and not overwritten. Our decisions will define a new era in fairness for all students, teachers and schools.

Julie Swan, Ofqual’s Executive Director for General Qualifications, said:

It is not fair to allow some students to have a second bite of the cherry by giving them a higher mark on review, when the first mark was perfectly appropriate. This undermines the hard work and professionalism of markers, most of whom are teachers themselves. These changes will mean a level-playing field for all students and help to improve public confidence in the marking system.

More details on the decisions and their time scales have been published.


Editor’s notes:

Marking review: When an exam script is given to a new marker (reviewer) to check the previous marker’s work.

Appeal: When a review decision is challenged.

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