The continued rise in appeals for GCSE, AS and A-level
Students receive GCSE results at Becket Keys Church of England School. Source: Shutterstock

The data on appeals for summer 2018 GCSE, AS and A level exams is out and the results show a continued rise in appeals submitted and upheld in England.

According to new figures from Ofqual, the number of appeals related to these three examinations grew by 42 percent in 2018. As for appeals upheld, this increased by 54 percent. These findings continue an upward trend from 2016. Ofqual stands for the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, a government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England.

After results are issued, a school or college can request a review of marking if it thinks an error has been made. If it is unsatisfied with the result of this review, an appeal can then be made to the exam board on several grounds: procedural error, malpractice decision, access arrangements, or a marking or moderation error.

The last two grounds were only introduced in 2017 for AS and A-levels and extended for GCSE English language, English literature and mathematics in 2018. Consequently, Ofqual said this was likely to have “resulted in an increase in the number of appeals…compared to previous years,” TES reported.

Marking error is the most common reason for appeals. It accounted for 81 percent of appeals, followed by review of marking for procedure (nine percent) and review of moderation for marking (six percent) and procedure (four percent).

While the number of appeals is increasing, the majority do not proceed to drastic changes or further action. For the summer 2018 exam series, only  0.003 percent of the 6.2 million qualification grades certified were changed as a result of an appeal. Most upheld appeals result in no grade change.

At AS and A-level in 2018, the number of qualification grades challenged decreased 41 percent compared to the previous year. According to Ofqual, this is due to schools including fewer candidates than previous appeals, “possibly due to the reduction in the number of moderated components as a result of reform”.

Only four percent of preliminary appeals progressed to an appeal hearing. The appeal hearing is the later stage of the two-stage appeals process put in place by the exam boards. Stage One appeal is preliminary, where a senior member of the exam board who has not previously been involved with the particular case conducts a review.

A school or college can request an appeal hearing only after going through a preliminary appeal. For the Stage Two appeal, applicants and exam boards present their case to a panel, which the exam board convenes. The panel comprises at least three members, one of whom must be independent.

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