19 Aug '13

News Should I ask for my A-level exam to be remarked?

Students who are unhappy with their A-level results could have their papers remarked, or resit an exam – but is it worth it?

Last Thursday, every commentator with a heart, from the NUS's Toni Pearce to John Prescott, busied themselves informing anxious A-level candidates that results day is not the be all and end all. But what practical steps can you take if you feel your marks don't reflect the work you put in?

If your grade is unexpectedly low, a remark could be your golden ticket. Schools can ask the exam board to send papers out for marking again – to another examiner. When you're on a grade borderline, this can make the difference between getting into a university or not.

But there are several important things to remember about remarks. Your marks could go up or down, and you can't choose to go back to the original. It's also often the case that the second examiner will see the marks and comments made by the first – it's rare for them to get a fresh photocopy of your script.

Schools are sometimes keen for their students to get remarks if they are close to a grade boundary – but remember, they can only do so with your permission.

You can ask for a priority remark if it's a matter of meeting or missing the conditions of a university offer – universities can hold your place pending the result. Exam boards must receive a request for a priority remark by 23 August.

There are several different types of remark available, with the AQA website explaining the options they offer.

A clerical check, or recount, is used to check if your grade was totalled properly and entered correctly on to the system. If your teacher is concerned about the grades of your whole class, they can call for a remark of 10% of the papers in that class. If the grades of several papers go up in the review, it could mean higher marks for the rest of the class. It's worth checking with your specific exam board what remark options they offer.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warns that requests for remarks are not made lightly, and will generally be made only after discussion between teachers and students.

"Schools and teachers have the best insights on the abilities of an individual student and will use their judgment to decide when it is appropriate to challenge a marking decision. This will often be in the context of a number of students' results being at odds with the expectations of teachers," she says.

Remarks can cost though; fees are set by individual awarding bodies and are only reimbursed if the marks are altered.

Kasia Wojtkowiak, examinations officer at Highgate school, an independent school in North London, said that this year both teachers and students have put forward requests for remarks in a variety of subjects.

"Price of requests range from £41 to £53 and it depends on the school whether it is the student or the school who pays for the remark," she says, preferring not to reveal whether Highgate students foot their own bill.

We asked our readers about their experiences of remarks. @sophievhay, a recent graduate, said it was worth a shot:

If this doesn't go to plan, there's always the option of resitting. The bad news is that this involves a lot more work and revising all over again. It's also no longer possible to resit exams in January – you'll have to wait until June the following year.

The good news is that if you do worse than last time, you can hang on to your original mark, unlike remarks where your grade could go down.

Often students in their first year of A-levels find themselves disappointed with AS results, and worry that these will undermine their university applications. For Becca-Jane, re-sits made all the difference:

Students thinking about remarks or resits should speak to their teachers as soon as possible – as schools often have their own rules about whether to allow their pupils to retake exams.

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