Making the grades: new film explains how the exam system works

Monday 15 Apr 2013

We have launched a new animated film to help students understand the process used to mark and grade exams - and address concerns that confusion about the exam system causes students and parents unnecessary worry.  

We decided to make the film to demystify the exams process and to help everyone who uses qualifications to make informed choices.

Most students know that their exam scripts are marked by examiners. However, the process for setting grade boundaries, which is just as important, is likely to be a bit of a mystery to many people. Concerns that people do not understand how the assessment system works were highlighted in a report by exam regulator Ofqual last year. According to the report, public confidence in the exam system would improve if the technical processes involved were explained in everyday  language.

Assessment experts from AQA's Centre for Education Research and Policy helped ensure that the film struck the right balance between explaining the marking and awarding process clearly and ensuring the technical detail was accurate.
Andrew Hall, AQA's Chief Executive, said: "It's become increasingly clear that the process exam boards use for marking and awarding is a mystery to many people. You could argue that it's a technical thing, and that it's not an issue as long as the exam boards know what they are doing.  However, I don't think that washes these days, given that exam results are so important - not just in terms of what they enable students to go on and do, but also in how they are used to judge the performance of schools. As a result, I think the whole industry needs to be as transparent and accountable as possible.
"So, we have decided to take a lead in helping make our work more understandable to everyone. It is quite a complex process and requires considerable expertise in terms of academic judgement and the use of statistical analyses to maintain fairness throughout the system – but we've done our best to make it understandable in this short film."