Normally, if a student or centre is dissatisfied with the mark awarded for a particular component or overall grade given for a GCSE or A-level, they can challenge the result.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) require all exam boards to give students and schools/colleges the right to appeal marks or results if they have concerns surrounding administrative procedures, the application of the mark scheme or decisions regarding malpractice or access arrangements.
Who can appeal a GCSE mark?
Usually, the head of centre will appeal a mark on behalf of a student. The student must give permission for this to happen, but it is the principal or headteacher who must formally approve the request and be the point of contact for the exam board. Private candidates are able to appeal directly to the exam board.
How does the GCSE and A-level appeals process work?
Marks may initially be checked by requesting a review of marking. This is a clerical re-check and then review of the paper by a second (usually senior) examiner who will identify any marking errors.
If the mark scheme appears to have been reasonably applied and all administration procedures appropriately followed, the reviewer will not amend any marks.
From here, if candidates or centres are still dissatisfied and disagree, an official appeal can be made based on concerns surrounding either:
- The procedures followed by the exam board when arriving at judgments: have they been consistently, properly and fairly applied at all stages?
- The application of the mark scheme itself: a centre may feel there has been a marking error that has caused an unfair result (where the mark awarded does not reasonably reflect the work provided by the learner in the exam).
Appeals may also be made regarding malpractice decisions, where an individual candidate or cohort are issued a malpractice penalty for breaching the guidelines, or in response to a decision surrounding access arrangements or special consideration. Appeals may be raised if an application for special consideration or access has been declined or adjustments not agreed with.
The appeal itself must focus on whether or not the awarding body has followed all necessary procedures fairly and accurately (in line with the guidance from the JCQ).
It is also worth noting that an appeal can only be raised once a review of marking/moderation has been requested and the outcome received (the review is always the first step) and all appeals against marking procedures and errors of marking must be submitted within 30 days of a review outcome.
At all stages, marks can go down as well as up and this may be something students and centres wish to bear in mind when requesting the post-results, appeals services.
How long do appeals take?
Exam boards aim to complete preliminary appeals (the period when the exam board considers the application and whether to uphold or reject the appeal) within six calendar weeks of receipt of the application.
If a centre or candidate is still dissatisfied with the preliminary appeal or overall judgement, they can apply to have their case heard in a meeting with an appeals panel for the relevant exam board.
Further information on appeals can be found on the JCQ website.