Exam Results - What Happens Next?
Teams of examiners, specialists in their subject, assess each script according to a ‘marking scheme’, devised to ensure consistency. Principal examiners also keep a close watch on marking performance to make sure grades are awarded fairly.
But the award of a grade is not always the end of the process. Grades that differ significantly from teacher predictions or comparative performance, are automatically re-checked and often re-graded. Borderline scores are also re-marked to ensure the final grade is fair. Although students sometimes challenge the grades they receive, very few of these complaints are upheld. There are simply too many checks and balances in the system to allow a serious error to be made.
For many students, the wait for results can be very stressful. So how can you prepare yourself for grades that are worse – or better – than you expected?
Exam Boards hold regular exam sessions (CIE, for example, holds IGCSE, A, and AS Level exam sessions every June and November) so if you want to re-sit an exam you usually don’t have long to wait. There is no barrier to taking an exam again, but do so only if you’re confident that this time you’ll pass and pass well, otherwise it’s a waste of time and money.
If you and your teachers believe the grade is actually a true reflection of your ability, then perhaps it’s time to move on and focus on those subjects in which you can do well. This becomes more important as you move on to courses that impact university entry and career success.
A lower grade can have a significant impact on future plans, especially if you lose a University place as a result. Don’t despair straight away – you may find the University is willing to defer your entry for a year if they know you plan to re-sit and, of course, you achieve the necessary grades next time around. Extra study, using methods that work better for you, can often result in much better grades, and you can also use the ‘gap’ year to travel or earn some money.
Changing university options
A university place depends on achieving certain grades at either IGCSE (for the US) or A Level, and places are usually offered in advance of results being announced. If you do really well, then you should revisit your offer – perhaps your grades now meet the entry criteria of a better school, or a more challenging course which offers better career prospects. Capitalise on your success now, and you’ll reap considerable benefits in the longer term.
It can come as a real blow if your A Level grades aren’t good enough for the University course you’ve selected. But this also is a chance to reassess. Remember, exams performance is a strong indicator of performance at degree level.
For example, if you found the A Level difficult, then you will find the degree course even harder, so a poor grade may be a sign to think again. However, if your grades are just slightly below your expectations, you may still be eligible for another course, or for the same course at another institution.
In the UK, UCAS (University and College Admissions Service) runs an annual ‘clearing’ process for students who are in this situation, matching their grades with possible alternative courses. Find out if universities in your region offer similar assistance.
A surprise result
It often happens that students rise to the occasion of the exam and do better than expected – and success should also prompt a reassessment of your plans. Perhaps your next course of study could be more challenging, given your success? Discuss options for change with your teacher, possibly asking to move into a more advanced study group.
If you thought further education was beyond you, then you could look again at courses which match your good grades. University may even be a realistic option so investigate courses and places that might now be open to you – perhaps not for this academic year, but certainly the next.
Whatever your grades, remember that exams are never an end point but rather an indicator of where to go. At each stage of your academic career, exams give you an opportunity to identify your strengths as well as your weaknesses and to build from there.