Practical advice for the students and parents on how to minimise the need for re-marking examinations

It must be born in mind that despite the increase in the number of challenges for re-marking exams and the increase in the number of exam grades that are changed as a result, it is still the case that the majority of appeals are unsuccessful. Most requests do not result in a change to the original exam grade that was awarded in the first place.

There are things that the student can do in order to make the job of the examiner who is marking the script a little easier and perhaps avoiding the need to have to request a re-mark. It is important that a student presents his or her response very well – with legible handwriting and well-structured written work when answering examination questions. Essay writing is one of the skills that many students do not master well enough before their major examinations. This skill is absolutely vital in subjects such as English, History, Economics , Psychology and almost all the art subjects. It is wrong to assume that the ability to write essays is not important for students who are taking science examinations such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Nothing can be further from the truth. In any piece of writing, irrespective of the subject, the ability to communicate in a manner where the writer is well understood and there is less ambiguity, is of the essence.

Marks allocated for SPAG

I have seen so many bright young people, with subject knowledge and who, despite understanding the question they are being asked, still fail to score anything close to the full mark in GCSE science subjects. For at least the last two decades, there have been marks awarded for what is called SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) in science subjects and a lack of adequate skills has let down so many young people. It must be said that for physical science subjects such as Maths and Physics and perhaps Chemistry and Biology to some limited extent, essay-writing skills are slightly less damaging, but it can still make a difference to the student’s exam grade.

I was at a parent’s evening a few weeks ago when the English teacher was telling me that although she understood my son’s writing and can read his work fine, she is still very strict in insisting that he writes in a manner in which anyone can read – including those who do not know him. I agree entirely with her and I very much hope that every teacher insists on this, as the examiner does not know the child whose exam script they are marking. The examiner has hundreds of scripts to mark and there is a limit to the amount of time he or she can be expected to spend trying to figure out what the candidate has written. In some cases, a student can lose a significant number of marks as a result of poor writing.

Students with unattractive handwriting can still present their work well

There are some young people who really try, but just do not have good handwriting. In many cases, these are very bright young people. I must say that I have seen at least one student with bad handwriting, who nevertheless is very clear in the way he presents his work and teachers can always read what he has written, despite his poor handwriting. The student in question did end up obtaining four A grades at A-level despite his poor handwriting. In Science and some other subjects, pictorial representation such as diagrams and tables can be used by a student in getting his or her point across in the process of answering questions in the examination. I must say that there is a slight risk in this, as the examiner who is marking the script may not necessarily be someone who is good at interpreting or reading tables unless in cases where a table is required to answer specific question.

Below, I summarise just a few measures that students can take to maximise the number of marks they score in an examination and to perhaps minimise the need to ask for a re-mark.

Re-marking and unfairness in exam grades– what’s the solution?

It may be okay to make it more difficult to appeal but OFQUAL must tidy it up first and restore confidence before making it a more difficult process for people to request a re-mark.

A quote from Chris King – Head of Leicester Grammar School “… too many complaints, so let’s make it difficult to complain.”

It’s okay if it takes longer to release the exam result and costs more money. It must be got right. Just one final piece of advice I have for parents is that you should not be speaking to your sons and daughters about resits for now as it does NOT work – see my blog on this. I discussed this in a blog last month in which I highlighted the fact that very few students actually improve their exam grade as a result of re-sitting the exam. They need to do everything they can to get it right at the first time of trying.

Minimising re-marks and low examination scores – practical suggestions for young people

  1. Better presentation of work.
  2. Better handwriting.
  3. Better structure of essays or any written response that requires having to write a number of words.
  4. Invest in a better pen and take two of the same pen that you are familiar with into the exam room.
  5. Don’t just use a pen that presents your work better for exams only – use it in practising questions.
  6. If you have poor handwriting, do all you can to present your work well –use plenty of sensible spaces and gaps between paragraphs. You can do this without fragmentation.
  7. Do not worry about a waste of paper – just use as much space as you need to make your answers readable and well understood.
  8. Writing in smaller handwriting may help to contain something in a smaller space but writing too small is a danger.
  9. A general issue not directly related: take two calculators to the exam room. Preferably two of the same type that you are used to.

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Below is a link to the first blog:

To read more about re-marking:

Resits do not work –


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