After 2 Covid years we may have forgotten what a real results day feels like.
In the midst of students jumping up into the air celebrating high grades, we may also find concerned students whose results are disappointing or senior managers wanted an instant analysis of what results are like.
To review or not to review?
Whilst it is tempting to moan about examiners, the vast majority of results will be accurate and won’t change if reviewed. However, examining is a human process and unfortunately errors do occasionally occur. So
Look at the rank order of the cohort on each paper. Does it look roughly right or is there a student result that stands out like a sore thumb? (It is trickier to spot patterns these days as each student and sometimes each question gets marked by a different examiner.)
If so talk to the student about the paper in question - how did they feel it went? Was the result a surprise to them? Although we have to be cautious as we know that ‘I wrote loads, sir’ may not be accurate particularly if what was written was not on the specific question. It may also be possible to get the paper back or to have a look at examiners reports before deciding whether to review or not.
What type of review? It is important to note that there is a difference between a priority review where a university place is at stake and needs to be done within 7 days, and a review which is largely a matter of pride where the student is in heir desired university but believes they should have an A not a B.
What does a review do?
It is worth reflecting on what exactly you are asking the exam board to do when you ask for a review.
You are asking for a senior examiner to check whether the script has a fair mark. This is NOT a remark; the examiner can see the original marks and is asked to change the mark ONLY if the mark cannot be justified. For maths it may be easy to see whether an examiner has made a mistake or not. For subjective essay based subjects it is a matter of ‘reasonable academic judgement.’ So in English, History or RS an essay which has 15 out of 25 probably won’t change if the reviewing examiner might have 1 or 2 more but if the reviewer thinks that 15 is unreasonable (‘why has the original examiner not given this closer to 20??’) then it will get changed. The reviewing examiner asks themselves ‘is this a reasonable and fair mark for the question? Not ‘what would I have given?’
One common misconception is that if a student is one or two marks off the next grade boundary the review stands more chance. The reviewing examiner checking the script will not know the students’ overall grade.
Finally, marks can and do go down on review – that’s why the candidate has to give permission. The examiner’s duty is to uphold the standard. If someone has got lucky due to a rogue mark, that is also an error that needs correcting as much as a script that is undermarked. This is worth bearing in mind if a student is quite close to the boundary for the next grade down
After results day - the analysis
Once the dust has settled and any reviews or remarks are in, it may then be possible to look at how results compare.
Direct comparison with CAGs and TAGs and even 2019 is tricky- we are not comparing like with like. When looking at overall grades remember there has been some generosity in the grading stage. So pass rates, high grades, and performance against targets may be difficult to assess
However you may want to look at unit results. If the vast majority of your students are lower on one of their modules then that may be an issue worth exploring. Was it something to do with TLA, issues with the questions or just one of those things that is odd about this year?
Hopefully you won’t need to worry too much but if you are in school, remember those other essential pieces of kit for results day: a camera for good news stories and a box of tissues either way.