Sunday 25 February 2018

Appealing your exam results

Mary O'Donnell

If students are unhappy with their exam results, and believe that they should have received a better grade, they may apply to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for a recheck of a subject, or of as many subjects as they are unhappy with.

If students are unhappy with their exam results, and believe that they should have received a better grade, they may apply to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for a recheck of a subject, or of as many subjects as they are unhappy with.

Applications for rechecks or appeals are normally processed through the principal of the school attended by the candidate.

The principal must vouch for the fact that he or she believes that the student was capable of a higher grade than that which was awarded in the subject in question. External candidates may apply on their own behalf for a recheck.

All appealed exam papers will be re-checked by an experienced examiner, who will be different from the examiner who originally marked the paper. The remarking is carried out in accordance with the marking scheme for the subject.

How many applicants appeal their results?

The number varies slightly from year to year. Last year (2009) a total of 6,127 candidates made applications for appeals against 10,398 grades, and upgrades were awarded in 2,076 cases. In 2008, 11,284 grades were appealed, whilst 9,913 were appealed in 2007, with roughly the same percentage of upgrades being awarded on appeal.

The highest number of appeals last year was made in English (Higher Level) with 2,031 appeals, of which 244 were upgraded.

Biology (Higher Level) was next, with 942 appeals, resulting in 289 upgrades.

Geography (Higher Level) came third highest with 827 appeals, and 225 upgrades. There were 802 appeals against Irish (Higher Level) grades, resulting in 165 upgrades.

The numbers appealing grades on Ordinary Level subjects is much smaller, with just five subjects featuring in the list, Maths, French, Irish, English and Business. Some 497 candidates appealed their Ordinary Level Maths grade, and 82 upgrades were awarded, 63 appeals were made on OL English papers, with 31 upgrades, and 81 appeals in OL Irish, resulting in 19 upgrades. In OL French 83 candidates appealed their grades, and just four upgrades were awarded.

Small numbers of appeals were also processed in subjects in the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.

What are the risks of seeking a recheck?

As students consider seeking a recheck of an exam result, they naturally wonder is there any fear that they will be downgraded rather than upgraded. The statistical probability of being downgraded is very slight, based on the evidence of the past few years.

In 2008, the SEC reported just five downgrades; there were just three in 2007; in 2006 the SEC reported that just one downgrade on appeal, while the previous year (2005), nine results were downgraded.

The SEC says that the expectation is that the number of downgrades will be small because only those who clearly believe that there are reasonable grounds for appeal will seek one. Their advice to prospective applicants is to carefully view all scripts before reaching a decision whether or not to appeal.

Upgrades without appeal

In 2009, a revision to the marking scheme for Leaving Certificate Higher Level Biology was approved by the Chief Examiner, on foot of an issue raised during the examinations appeal process.

Consequently the grades of a further 621 Leaving Certificate higher level Biology students were upgraded following this review of the marking scheme for the subject by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

What an appeal costs and how to pay

The fee for an appeal or recheck is €40 per subject in the established Leaving Certificate, and €15.50 in the Leaving Certificate Applied. It must be paid in advance. The fee is refunded to you (through your school, if you are a school candidate) if the application for an upgrade is successful.

There are two ways of paying the fee; either by bank giro form that you receive with your personalised appeal application form, or via the internet, using a credit card.

The SEC stresses that applicants should use the bank giro form provided to them with their exam results, as this form has a unique identifier which allows the SEC to trace your payment and match it with the appeal application when it is received through your school.

If you use the internet facility, you will be provided with a form showing the subject or subjects which you have opted to appeal. You must print out this form, and return it to your school so that your scripts can be associated with it and forwarded to the SEC.

The closing date for an appeal for a recheck this year is Wednesday, September 8. Effectively students should return their appeal form to their school by Monday, September 6, or early on Tuesday, September 7, to allow time for the school to post its batch of appeals to arrive in the State Examinations Commission by September 8.

Results of rechecks will be issued in early to mid-October.

Irish Independent

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