Why do my exam results take so long, and why can't I enter late?
We are often asked why the exam results take so long to be published, and why we won’t allow any late exam entries. Hopefully these notes will answer these questions.
Sitting the April and September exams (known as the session based exams) is the end point of a complex process which starts well before the dates when you sit your papers.
Setting exam dates
The first stage of the exam process is the setting of the exam dates.
After much debate a few years ago, it was agreed that the exams will normally take place in the third and fourth weeks in April and in the last week in September/first week in October. The detailed exam dates are set two years in advance.
The Exams Team identify the possible dates, taking into consideration bank holidays and significant religious holidays and the options are then presented to the Education Committee for a final decision. Once the decision has been made the dates are published on the website and in the student newsletter, and ultimately appear in the student handbook.
The order of the exams (except for CA1) will switch each year – week one exams will switch with week two. Following requests from the Student Consultative Forum, morning and afternoon exams will also swap around each year.
The two papers for CA1 do not take place on one day as we have some students who require 100% extra time for their exams and this would then be expecting them to take the exam over 12 hours in a single day.
The exam entry session normally opens 12-14 weeks before the exams start. Of the entries we receive around one-third of them are sent in the final week before the closing date.
Entry can be made either
- online (paying by card) – if you enter online, you can check your personal account on the website to see immediately that your entry has been recorded.
- or by filling in a form and sending it by email, fax or post along with payment – if you submit an email or postal entry, you will receive an email confirming the details once the form has been processed.
If you send in an application form we cannot stress enough the importance of getting it in on time. The earlier we receive it the earlier you will receive the confirmation that you have been entered. It is therefore also important for you to check that your records show the correct email address, by logging on to your personal account and selecting the address you would prefer us to use for correspondence. Note that hotmail and similar accounts are unreliable and often email confirmations to such accounts do not get through.
Too many candidates leave their entry form submission until the day of the closing date. This runs the risk of the form not being received by the team, and it then being too late for this to be corrected. This then means that you cannot be entered for the exam(s) for which you have studied.
On the closing date the Exams Team are usually inundated with telephone calls and emails requesting confirmation of entry. You can easily check your account online before the closing date and then call the team early if your exams are not showing on your record. So, please enter and check early.
It takes a lot of effort to organise over 7,000 candidates at more than 100 centres worldwide, and to ensure that a team of 180 volunteer markers is in place.
All of this must be achieved within tight deadlines. Therefore the overseas entry closing deadline is 7 weeks before the exams start so that the team has time to prepare and pack the stationery and permits to send to the overseas centres. The UK closing date deadline is 4 weeks before the exams start, and the stationery and permits are packed and sent out to these centres and students two weeks before the exams start.
This is why late entries are not accepted. Whilst one or two extra papers may not seem a lot to one student we have a large number who miss the deadline. The logistical impact of trying to organise extra seating or extra markers can adversely affect the service given to the vast majority of students who do meet the deadline.
Marking and publication of results
Once an exam has taken place the completed exam scripts are returned to the Oxford office where they are checked and absentees are noted – in the last session 10% of those who entered the CT subjects and 4% of those for the later subjects were absent.
Once received and checked, scripts are then repackaged to be sent to the first marker. Scripts can take up to 3 weeks (and sometimes more) to arrive in the Oxford office from some overseas centres so this initial marking phase can take a long while to completely finish.
From the first group of scripts for each subject that arrives in the office 5 are selected to be a ‘test batch’. These are sent to all the markers and examiners for the subject, to be marked by them all ready for a meeting where they get together to standardise their marking, review and possibly amend any marking schedules. After this meeting the examiners being the full marking process.
During the marking period each script is marked twice by separate markers, neither of whom knows how the other scored the paper. Depending on the subject each marker can be marking between 60 and 240 scripts, and the whole process can take from 4 to 6 weeks to complete.
When each marker has completed their marking they send the results to the lead examiner who will review the marks and form an opinion of where the pass mark should be set. This will change each session, depending on the complexity of the paper, and the students’ overall performance.
Once the initial pass mark has been decided then scripts which are around the borderline will be marked a third or possibly fourth time to ensure that the examiners are happy with the proposed pass mark. Where the first two markers disagree a script will also be third marked by an examiner.
Whilst all this is happening the Exams Team gather together all the mitigating circumstances reports and incident reports that have been submitted, ready for consideration by the examiners.
8 weeks after the exams the initial exam results for the CT subjects are sent to Oxford for uploading into the database and are used to provide a variety of statistics. One week later the Board of Examiners meet to discuss the results for the CT subjects. At this meeting the pass mark and the pass rate (the number who have passed out of those sitting) are agreed. The Exams Team then produce the exam results letters, the pass lists (which the Principal Examiner has to sign off), and finalise any statistics. In the meantime the Principal Examiner will be working on the examiners’ report for publication on the website soon after the results are published. 11 weeks after the exams have been sat the results are released.
For the later subjects these activities all take place two weeks later.
So you can see, managing the exams is a very complex process taking a lot of work and planning. Therefore deadlines must be adhered to by everyone to ensure that exams can be sat by all candidates, and that we publish results as soon as we can.
|1 year prior||Exam dates agreed||Education Committee|
|12-14 weeks before exam starts||Entry opens||Exams team|
|4-7 weeks before exam starts||Entry closes||Students|
|2-4 weeks before exam starts||Stationery sent out||Exams team|
|1-4 weeks after exams sat||Scripts returned and sent to markers||Exams team|
|2-7 weeks after exams sat||Scripts marked (1st and 2nd)||Assistant Examiners|
|6-8 weeks after exams sat||Scripts marked (3rd) Pass mark set||Lead/Principal Examiner|
|8 or 10 weeks after exams sat||Exam results sent to Oxford for upload||Principal Examiner/Exams team|
|9 or 11 weeks after exams sat||Board of Examiners meets to agree exam mark/rate||Board of Examiners|
|11 or 13 weeks after exams sat||Exam results released||Exams team|