A level results under inspection 2018

Most centres will have resolved many of their A level student issues by now. But every year there is always a number of cases where results are challenged by centres when ‘high stakes’ university or apprentice places are under threat.


The pressure is then on exam bodies to meet deadlines as centres demand answers because of the tight timescales set by UCAS and individual universities. The majority of students are served successfully across the exam system year-on-year, but there will always be cases where the system appears not to work for those individuals.


One centre this year had a student who took A’ Levels in Economics, History and Government and got three ‘Bs’. The school questioned the results. Two grades were changed to ‘As’ from the same exam body and so the student’s university place was secured with two ‘As’ and ‘B’. Because the student was admitted on this combination the school decided not to invest any more money is questioning the ‘B’ grade at another exam body.


A good result you might say! But the school remains concerned over this sudden change in grades, even though they should get their fees back on these changes, but of course many do not. Marks may be changed after an enquiry, but if no grade boundaries are changed then the exams bodies do not have repay a fee.


And there remains the question over that ‘B’ grade at the other exam body. What about all those other students who might have fallen foul of that rough marker who gave this student a ‘B’. Should this grade also have been an 'A' or was that 'B' totally correct and appropriate? One will never know because the emphasis is on the centre still to chase down results and why should one exam body invest in another exam bodies enquries.


The exam body community go to great lengths to state their constant interaction over policy and practice, especially over assessment and results, but the fact remains, despite OfQual’s determination to regulate this group, the key exam bodies which deliver the majority of the high stakes general qualifications have their own individual assessment systems and practices. Before results days all these different practices and processes from individual exam bodies have to be orchestrated and portrayed as universally national results process.


It is not a surprise therefore that there will always be individuals who feel the system is not working for them. One exam body success from an excellent service to one centre will be countered by another negative experience by another centre. These invaluable exchanges if  captured would contribute to encouraging good practice across the system.


However, these positive and negative experiences are often lost within the existing system because these individual centres deal only with individual exam bodies about their individual problems, but the experience of an individual may have universal consequences. There is just not enough accountability across the system, at this operational level, despite OfQual’s growing interaction and investment in making the system more transparent to all stakeholders.  


And universities have their role to play in helping to support one of the worlds leading exam systems. Some centres are very concerned about the growing practice of some universities in making 'unconditional offers' which they feel ‘dumb-down’ the whole A’ level process because some students offered places under this principle have been identified as underperforming. Others centres point out  that some students will not question the nature of their results because they no longer need to, and just accept what they get, having secured a university place.


Everyone involved in education and exams delivery wants to maintain the highest quality system they can and here is an example of external practice which the exam system, centres and exam officers have no influence on. Such a practice related to university offers may circumvent the very foundations upon which the education and exam community operate.


If you have any issues over A' Level results please get in touch, in confidence - at ieoa.office@examofficers.org.uk - title '2018 A'Level results issues'.