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I'm guessing that exams have bigger problems

As always during exam results season, the press is taking an interest both north and south of the border. However, some of the stories are not at all helpful.

One currently doing the rounds in England is that exam boards "guesstimate" grades when scripts have gone missing. This is linked to recent problems with exam reform, and one newspaper said that the exam boards have "quietly introduced a system to estimate grades where papers have `gone missing' ".

But this is no new system: it dates back at least to the 1930s, when one of the authors of the book 1066 and All That famously obtained his degree under the aegrotat system (he was too ill to sit his finals and was awarded a degree on previous work). This system is used in universities and in schools when a student is ill because the alternative is for them to waste a year.

More usually, the scripts have been lost in the post, and England's exam watchdog Ofqual estimates that this happens to 200 scripts out of more than half a million sent out each year to external examiners. It is a well known and accepted system, and unless there is a way to ensure that the post is perfect it must continue. In the vast majority of cases students will have submitted two or more scripts which can be the basis of the final grade.

The alternative is to cancel the student's grade completely and make them redo a year to rectify a problem they did not cause. I cannot see that this would ever be acceptable. The situation is not part of the new and disturbing problems of exam reform, is not shocking or disturbing, and should be decoupled from the genuine problems that are now occurring.

Trevor Fisher


Short and tweet

It's over. It's finally over.


Whatever your results, here's some useful info and advice from @YoungScot.


More than 90 pupils in S5 got five Highers at grade A in one sitting this year compared with more than 80 last year.


Q about your certificate, phone @sqanews. Q about what to do next, phone @skillsdevscot. Other Q, phone @YoungScot.


Why exams are failing assessment. #exams #assessment #ThisIsCharacter. ow.lyQtyNi


Thanks to Miss Kirstein for being a wee gem, soz about not aceing that exam but it's all just a bit of "B"anter, eh?


Unexpected #examresults? Contact the Exam Results Helpline for free, independent advice about your options: 0808 100 8000.


Ach weel, iways next year. #exams


Letters for publication in TESS should arrive by 10am Monday. Send your letters, ideally of no more than 250 words in length, including contact address and phone number, by email to Letters may be edited

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