The number of GCSE and A-level grades changed after schools requested a review of marking has risen by 40 per cent, the exam regulator Ofqual revealed today.
The new figures show that 88,505 GCSE, A-level and AS grades were changed after schools demanded remarks – compared with 63,345 last year.
This means that 24 per cent of the challenges made by schools resulted in a changed grade, a higher proportion than last year.
The exams regulator has said the rise in grades changed after review stemmed principally from an increase in the number of successful review requests in new and legacy versions of GCSE English language and English literature.
This is partly explained by a significant increase in GCSE entries in these subjects this year, with fewer students taking alternative qualifications. However, the proportion of successful grade changes has also risen.
This summer, pupils sat the new GCSEs in English and maths for the first time - as well as 13 reformed A-level subjects.
Marking 'wasn't good enough'
And with some of the new qualifications – such as GCSE English – there were concerns among the profession that the quality of marking wasn’t good enough.
These concerns grew when a number of schools saw significant changes in pupils’ English GCSE grades after they were challenged – in some cases by two grades.
Ofqual today revealed that the number of changes of two grades or more has increased by 391 per cent – from 401 in 2016 to 1,969 in 2017 – and it says this was mainly due to the number of changes in GCSE English.
The exams regulator notes that this only represents 0.03 per cent of all qualification grades – but in a report today it says it was “concerned about the sharp increase”.
Ofqual says that the rise was not down to “issues with original marking” but it was due to exam boards not effectively embedding its new rules for reviews of marking.
Under measures introduced by Ofqual last year, exam boards are only allowed to change a mark where there has been a “clear marking error” rather than a difference of professional judgement.
Sally Collier, chief regulator of Ofqual, said: “From our initial analysis, it appears that some of the exam boards have not done enough to change old practices and meet our new rules around reviews of marking.
“We expect all exam boards to comply with our rules at all times. We are currently looking at where more could and should be done and will consider what form of regulatory action may be appropriate.
“We will not require exam boards to reconsider the outcomes of the reviews they have undertaken this year, so students’ awards following review will stand.”
A spokesperson for the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the main exam boards, said that Ofqual had raised concerns with some awarding bodies about the way they have implemented its changes to the marking review process.
"The awarding bodies have put in place training and monitoring programmes for their reviewers. Awarding bodies will continue to undertake further work to ensure that the new regulations are embedded fully in their processes and that all reviewers follow the new system," the spokesperson said.
For years, the number of challenges to GCSE and A-level grades rose. Last year, following the changes, the number of challenges schools made fell by 25 per cent.
But this year, the number of challenges to GCSE, A-level and AS grades rose by 6 per cent, the statistics show. A total of 369,215 grade challenges were made by schools in 2017, compared with 346,920 last year.