Ofqual consultation on marking reviews & exam appeals – expert reaction

Last summer more than 90,000 GCSE and A-level results were changed, following challenges to the grades given. Official figures show this was the highest on record and a jump of 17% compared to the previous year. 

Ofqual, the body which regulates exams, said that there were more than 572,000 queries over grades. As a result, they are launching a consultation to overhaul the appeals system.

Exam expert, Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director of the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment, has been following the development of this policy. She gives her reaction to the announcement of the Ofqual consultation:

“Appeals against marking are still a very small minority of the marks awarded by exam boards every year and the grade changes are a tiny proportion of all of the results that they release. Yet, there is a lot of unease about quality of marking in our national exam systems.

Multiple choice tests or short answer questions can be marked with a much higher level of accuracy than extended answers, but it would be a mistake to change the design of our questions just to improve the reliability. If we want students to show that they can evaluate, synthesise and express an argument in an exam then it is inevitable that there will be some legitimate differences in opinion between examiners about the exact mark that these answers deserve.

This should not undermine our confidence in the examining system, which in large part we can be proud of in this country. Ofqual’s proposals look like a mature approach to legitimate, professional difference of opinion over small differences in marks and the new process would regularise the system.”

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