A question that often gets asked is what happens to exam papers after the exam is finished. The following blog outlines a step-by-step process exam boards follow between finishing the exam and receiving their results in August.
When an exam is finished and the papers have been collected, the exams officer at the exam centre (usually a school or college) packages them up ready for collection by couriers. They complete an attendance register so it is clear if anyone was absent.
Each examination has its own unique label to keep track of it all the way to the scanning centre. This whole section of the process only takes a matter of days.
There are a few things we need to do to get exam papers ready before they can be marked. For example, ensuring that the exam scripts are matched to the right candidate by cross-checking candidates’ details and the exam reference code. Next, we carefully slice the edge off the exam paper so it can go through our scanners; this is why it is important candidates leave the generous margins clear.
We now have an electronic image of an exam paper, linked to a candidate’s entry record, ready to be marked.
The majority of exams are marked on screen. Examiner visits and recording are used for the assessments that cannot be scanned digitally- such as speaking tests.
There are two main types of electronic marking. Where students use a separate answer booklet – typically for longer, essay style exams – the whole paper will be marked by the same examiner. Assessments that have lots of shorter questions have a designated space for students to write their answer will see a paper electronically segmented, which means that different examiners will mark different questions.
Irrespective of how the exams are marked, there are protocols in place that ensure the marks are reliable and accurate through formal training undertaken by examination markers as well as monitoring and peer-review frameworks, including ‘seeds.’ Seeds are carefully selected examples of candidates’ responses that are marked by senior examiners before the marking period starts. They are then added in at intervals for examiners to check markers’ accuracy. If they mark the seeds correctly they can carry on, if they get the seed wrong they are flagged and their senior examiner notified.
After this, net marks will be assigned to each exam paper. The next step is converting marks into grades. Students may have sat two or three exam papers and all their hard work needs to be taken into account and turned into an overall grade.
Once grades are decided for every candidate, results are ready to be issued. For students who have applied for University grades are shared with UCAS so they can start to match students and courses. The day before results are released to students, they are made available to the school to allow teachers time to ensure everything is in order for results day.
Therefore, there are various steps between sitting an exam and results being ready on results day. Each stage is an integral part that ensures students get the marks they deserve in a short space of time before the university and school term begins.