Should your teenager challenge their A-level exam result?
At one school – Guildford High – a quarter of students who challenged their A-level results ended up with a higher grade. Given what may be at stake if a teenager misses out on their A-level result, it is a little concerning that one in four of A-level results is inaccurate. The problem is more widespread in art-based subjects such as English, Sociology and Business Studies (now just called Business)
It was reported in the Sunday Times of 11th August, 2019, that inconsistency in the style of marking by different examiners means that only between 52% and 58% of grades awarded in certain subjects – mainly essay-based ones, are what is termed “definitive grades”; this is a grade on which different examiners agree. In Geography, for example, only 65% of the grades are what the chief examiner would have awarded if they were to have marked the paper.
Gone are the days when college principals and consultants were some sort of demi-gods!
One of the developments in modern times that is worth celebrating, in comparison to the way things were, 30 years or more ago, is the fact that, now, institutions and people in high positions, such as hospital consultants – who were regarded as some sort of god – were rarely challenged. At the time, the decision of a top doctor, on which one could seek a second opinion nowadays, went unchallenged and an incorrect diagnosis may have been a death penalty for thousands back then. Many bright young people at the time were wrongly grouped to study a lower qualification, such as CSE instead of GCE O-level, or, due to less accountability in schools at the time, achieved poor A-level and O-level grades.
I find it quite frightening that a young person’s future could hinge so much on the subjective view of an examiner, due to inconsistency in the marking process. Many teenagers, who have worked very hard, miss out on their first choice of university or their preferred degree course because they were awarded lower marks than those reflecting their academic ability.
A success story of a student who missed the A-level grades offered by Cambridge
In the same Sunday Times, I read the story of a young man, Bobby Victor, who originally missed out on an A grade in Religious Studies by one mark. His school appealed and he rang up Cambridge, they asked him to provide a breakdown of his marks – making them change their mind and offering him a place to study History and Politics at Jesus College.
What happened to the young man above is apparently a success story and so is the 25% of the girls at Guildford High School, who were awarded higher grades after appealing against the original A-level grades they were awarded.
Although, overall, I still have confidence in the A-level exam system, I think there are some fairly serious issues that need to be addressed. Subjective and inconsistent marking of A-level exam scripts – particularly in essay-based subjects, is a concern and it ought to be addressed swiftly, given the potential damage such a poor result could cause to the young person concerned.
I would advise parents and young people to seriously consider appealing against an A-level grade in cases where they suspect foul play.
In my next blogpost….
There are two sets of statistics with respect to GCSE results that are being leased tomorrow – one is a cause for celebration – the other is not good for your bedtime reading!
In my next article, I explore two reports – one says that about 2,000 young people will achieve at least the top grade – Grade 9 – at GCSE this year. Another, not-so-exciting news; says 170,000 students will fail both English and Maths at GCSE.