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Getting a remark of an A level or GCSE exam

Is getting a remark worth it, and how to ask for one

Exam results really matter. For colleges, universities and employers, they are the main measure of your academic achievement.  What can you do if your results are not what you need or what you expected? One option is to ask for a remark, and this page explains what's involved in getting a remark of A level and GCSE exam results gained in the summer of 2017.

Why get a remark?

  • Because your grades aren't good enough to go on to your preferred next stage, whether that's university, or a sixth-form place, or a job
  • Because you've not got a pass in a vital subject (eg English and Maths at GCSE)
  • Because you feel the grade you've got isn't fair or right.

How do I get a remark?

You can only get a remark through the centre where you took the exam. That's generally your school or college. You'll need to talk to your teachers anyway to work out whether getting a remark makes sense (see below). The exam centre does all the paperwork  with the board (usually online). Each exam board has its own procedures, and although they all have to conform to national rules, procedures can differ. Here are links to the 'big 3' exam board's pages on 'post results services': OCR, AQA, Pearson (EDEXCEL).

What kinds of remark are there?

There are two main sorts of remark (and several others that are more important to schools and teachers). The two options you are likely to have are a clerical check, and a proper remark. A clerical check simply involves somebody going through your exam paper adding up all the points the examiner awarded, to check that none were missed.

Clerical checks are cheaper to request but much less likely to uncover a mistake, especially now that many scripts are marked online with the totting up done by computer. A full remark involves another examiner going through your script and marking it again. Confusingly there's also a process called an appeal. This applies only if you have had the results of a remark, and you and your school want to challenge the remark result.

Is it worth getting a remark?

There are plus and minus points to getting a remark. The big plus is of course getting a better grade if the remark works out. The minus points are:

  • Your grade can go down as well as stay the same or go up. In the past very few remark requests lead to a down-grade, but changes to regulations mean this is now more likely. When you request a remark you're asked to sign a form to show you are aware of this.
  • You have to pay, though you get your fee refunded if your grade goes up. Fees are charged per paper remarked, and vary from around £30 per paper upwards, depending upon the exam board and your exam centre.
  • Getting a remark take time and you may find it difficult to make plans while you wait (especially if a university place is involved)

Each case is different, and we strongly advise you to talk to your teachers before getting a remark.

What are the chances of improving on remark?

Government statistics  show that , after the summer 2016 exams, 18% of all GCE and GCSE grades challenged were changed , which was  0.9% of all the GCE and GCSE grades awarded in that session.

Does this mean you have a 20% chance of going up or a 1% chance? Well, neither: many remark requests are from  students who have good reason to suspect errors, while nationally, many who might benefit from getting a remark don't ask for one.

Whether getting a remark is worthwhile depends entirely on individual circumstances! You need to talk to your teachers to assess what your chances are.

Your teachers can help you decide on getting a remark

  • They know your work, they know what the exam was like and they know the results of your class-mates. All that gives them a perspective on whether something has gone wrong. They also had to give the exam board a grade prediction for each student earlier in the summer.
  • They can check the number of marks you got for each paper and tell you how close it was to the next grade up. If you were very close, getting a remark might nudge you up a grade. If you were close to the bottom for the grade the risk of a remark pushing you down is greater
  • They can help you look over a copy of your marked script (see later) to see whether the mark scheme might contain more marks for you.

My university place depends on a remark - is there time?

If you need to get an A-level paper remarked  for a university place, you can ask for a priority review of marking. The request has to be made by 24 August  2017, and the check can take up to 15 calendar days (ie up to 7 September). That's beyond the 31 August date by which UCAS ask universities to make decisions, so it is possible that an upgrade comes too late to save your place.

Check what UCAS say about remarks, offer confirmation and clearing. You'll see they emphasise the need to act quickly and to keep your chosen university informed.

We would add that you also need to keep in close touch with your school to talk through whether to start clearing, how best to keep universities on your side. A supportive letter from your tutor could make a real difference here.

Deadlines for other remarks

If you're not asking for a priority review (or not able to ask for one - see individual exam board rules), deadlines for remark requests are 21 September 2017 and the exam board can take a month to tell you the outcome.

Asking to see your marked script

Your exam centre can ask for your exam script with the examiner's marks on it. This might come in the form of an online scan, or a photocopy, or even the actual script. It depends on the exam paper concerned, the board and the request.

With the mark scheme for a paper, a teacher can give a very good idea of whether the marking of your script has been accurate. This not only helps you decide on getting a remark but can help if you're thinking of retaking the exam. But, unless the marked paper is quickly available online (and at the time of writing this only some Pearson exam papers are), you will not be able to get them in time to ask for a priority review of marking.

Getting a remark of coursework

It is possible to ask for teacher-marked or non-paper-based assessments (eg orals) to be reviewed. What's possible depends on the exam, who marked it and the extent of exam board 'moderation'. Get advice from your teachers about what is and is not possible.

My school can't help me with remarks

Exam board regulations require exam centres to have senior staff on hand after results day to help students with queries, so if there's no-body about, you're entitled to complain. Talking to your teachers may be less easy if they are still on holiday, though most get back in contact from results day onward.

If your school  are discouraging you from getting a remark, you should of course listen very carefully to their reasons for doing so - it can be an emotional time for everybody - but if you insist on going ahead the exam boards expect them to help.

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