Ofqual Handbook

Section H - From marking to issuing results

Rules about marking, moderation, setting specified levels of attainment and results

General Conditions of Recognition

Condition H1 - Marking the assessment

Marking

  1. H1.1 For each qualification which it makes available, an awarding organisation must have in place effective arrangements to ensure that, as far as possible, the criteria against which Learners’ performance will be differentiated are –
    1. (a) understood by Assessors and accurately applied, and
    2. (b) applied consistently by Assessors, regardless of the identity of the Assessor, Learner or Centre.

Marking options

  1. H1.2 Where –
    1. (a) an awarding organisation offers an option as to tasks which may be completed by a Learner in an assessment or as to assessments which may be completed by the Learner (including units),
    2. (b) the awarding organisation reasonably concludes that there is a material inconsistency between the Level of Demand of two optional tasks or assessments, and
    3. (c) it is likely that the inconsistency will prejudice a group of Learners,

  2. the awarding organisation must make a reasonable alteration to the criteria against which Learners’ performance will be differentiated for the optional task or assessment so as to prevent that prejudice from occurring.

H1.3 Where such a reasonable alteration is made for an optional task or assessment, an awarding organisation must ensure that the alteration is applied uniformly in the marking of every task or assessment in relation to which a Learner has taken that option.

Condition H2 - Moderation where an assessment is marked by a Centre

H2.1 Where evidence generated by a Learner in an assessment for a qualification made available by an awarding organisation is marked by a Centre, the awarding organisation must have in place clear and effective arrangements to undertake Moderation of the assessment.

  1. H2.2 An awarding organisation must ensure that any such Moderation which it undertakes allows it effectively to determine whether or not –
    1. (a) the assessment remains fit for purpose, and
    2. (b) the criteria against which Learners’ performance is differentiated are being applied accurately and consistently by Assessors in different Centres, regardless of the identity of the Assessor, Learner, or Centre.
  1. H2.3 An awarding organisation must –
    1. (a) ensure that any such Moderation which it undertakes ensures that it is able to make any necessary changes to a Centre’s marking of evidence generated by a Learner in an assessment, and
    2. (b) make such a change wherever it considers it necessary in order to ensure that the assessment remains fit for purpose or that the criteria against which Learners’ performance is differentiated are being applied accurately and consistently.

Condition H3 - Monitoring the specified levels of attainment for a qualification

  1. H3.1 Before setting a specified level of attainment for a qualification which it makes available, an awarding organisation must review the specified levels of attainment set for –
    1. (a) the qualification previously,
    2. (b) similar qualifications it makes available, and
    3. (c) similar qualifications made available by other awarding organisations,
  2. and must use the results of this monitoring to ensure that the specified level of attainment it sets for the qualification will promote consistency in measuring the levels of attainment of Learners over time and between similar qualifications.

Condition H4 - Adjudication by Ofqual of specified levels of attainment for a qualification

  1. H4.1 Where –
    1. (a) an awarding organisation makes available a qualification,
    2. (b) at least one other awarding organisation makes available a qualification which is viewed by the generality of Users of qualifications as being a direct equivalent to that qualification
    3. (c) each awarding organisation sets the specified level or levels of attainment for the equivalent qualification that they respectively make available,
    4. (d) Ofqual considers that a specified level of attainment set by an awarding organisation prevents the equivalent qualifications from indicating a consistent level of attainment (including, where Ofqual considers appropriate, over time), and
    5. (e) Ofqual specifies to an awarding organisation, in writing, requirements in relation to a specified level of attainment for the qualification which it makes available (either for a particular assessment cycle or during a particular time period),
  2. any awarding organisation to which Ofqual has specified such requirements must ensure that, before the qualification is awarded for that assessment cycle or during that time period, the specified level of attainment for the qualification complies with those requirements.

Condition H5 - Results for a qualification must be based on sufficient evidence

H5.1 An awarding organisation must ensure that the result of each assessment taken by a Learner in relation to a qualification which the awarding organisation makes available reflects the level of attainment demonstrated by that Learner in the assessment.

  1. H5.2 An awarding organisation must ensure that –
    1. (a) the marking of an assessment in relation to, and
    2. (b) the awarding of,
  2. a qualification which it makes available takes into account all admissible evidence generated by a Learner as part of that assessment.
  1. H5.3 Where an awarding organisation sets a rule as to the quantity or type of evidence generated by Learners which will be admissible in an assessment, it must ensure that –
    1. (a) the assessment makes the rule clear, and
    2. (b) the rule is applied to all Learners taking the assessment (other than where any Reasonable Adjustments or Special Consideration require it to be altered).
  1. H5.4 Where an awarding organisation sets a rule as to how the final mark for a qualification will be calculated from marks for different assessments, it must ensure that –
    1. (a) the qualification makes the rule clear, and
    2. (b) the rule is applied to all Learners taking the qualification (other than where any Reasonable Adjustments or Special Consideration require it to be altered).

Condition H6 - Issuing results

  1. H6.1 An awarding organisation must, in relation to any qualification which it makes available –
    1. (a) issue results for all units and qualifications,
    2. (b) publish expected dates or timescales for the issue of those results,
    3. (c) issue results which are clear and readily capable of being understood by Users of qualifications
    4. (d) issue results which accurately and completely reflect the marking of assessments (including the outcome of any Moderation and other quality assurance process),
    5. (e) ensure that the issue of results is timely, and
    6. (f) take all reasonable steps to meet any date or timescale it has published for the issue of results.


Supporting guidance

Guidance on making changes to incorrect results

Introduction

We expect an awarding organisation to issue correct results to Learners. But where an awarding organisation discovers that, despite its controls, it has issued an incorrect result, it must have regard to this guidance when deciding what to do.

An incorrect result is one that does not accurately reflect a Learner’s performance in his/her assessment. It could be higher or lower than the level of attainment which the Learner demonstrated. An awarding organisation may discover that it has issued an incorrect result in different ways, including:

  • through the application of its own quality assurance processes;
  • through its investigations into malpractice or maladministration; or
  • where a review of marking or an appeals process reveals an issue which is relevant to other Learners’ assessments.

Regardless of how an incorrect result is discovered (and whether it is higher or lower than the level of attainment demonstrated by the Learner), an awarding organisation must decide what action to take, and whether or not to correct the result.

This guidance identifies a number of Conditions that place obligations on awarding organisations which are relevant to this issue. It explains how an awarding organisation should decide what action to take and some of the factors it should consider. The importance of these factors will vary between cases, but awarding organisations should adopt a consistent approach to determine which are relevant and how to balance them.

In particular, this guidance focuses on an awarding organisation’s decision whether or not to correct an incorrect result. It is for the awarding organisation to take this decision in each case, ensuring that it meets the requirements of the Conditions and has regard to this guidance. Having taken this decision, the awarding organisation should always consider whether it should take any other action to comply with the requirements of the Conditions.

What requirements must an awarding organisation meet?

Awarding organisations must comply with all of the Conditions which apply to the qualifications they offer. The Conditions below are likely to be particularly relevant to the issuing of results and to the action an awarding organisation should take if it finds it has issued an incorrect result.

  • Condition A6.1 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to identify the risk of any incidents which could have an Adverse Effect. Since the issuing of an incorrect result could (in many cases) have an Adverse Effect, an awarding organisation should actively consider any risks which might lead to this happening.
  • Condition A6.2 requires that where such a risk is identified, the awarding organisation takes all reasonable steps to prevent the incident from occurring or to reduce the risk of it occurring. The awarding organisation must also prevent, or if this is not possible mitigate, any Adverse Effect that the incident could have were it to occur.
  • Condition H5.1 requires an awarding organisation to ensure that the result of each assessment taken by a Learner reflects the level of attainment demonstrated by that Learner.
  • Condition H6.1(d) requires an awarding organisation to issue results which accurately and completely reflect the marking of assessments (including any Moderation and other quality assurance process).

Where an awarding organisation issues an incorrect result, it will have failed to comply with one or both of Conditions H5.1 and H6.1(d). There are a number of further requirements that could be relevant if an awarding organisation issues an incorrect result.

  • Condition A7.1 requires that where any incident occurs which could have an Adverse Effect, an awarding organisation must promptly take all reasonable steps to prevent the Adverse Effect or to mitigate it as far as possible and correct it. In doing so, it must prioritise the provision of assessments which accurately differentiate between Learners on the basis of the level of attainment they have demonstrated and the accurate and timely award of qualifications.
  • Condition A8.2 requires that where an awarding organisation suspects malpractice or maladministration and has reasonable grounds for doing so, it must promptly take all reasonable steps to prevent any Adverse Effect which may occur. Where an Adverse Effect does occur it must mitigate it and correct it as far as possible. This obligation may be relevant where an incorrect result has been issued as a result of malpractice or maladministration.
  • Condition I1.4 (or, where Condition I1 does not apply to a qualification, the relevant Qualification Level Condition) requires that if an awarding organisation discovers a failure in its assessment process through any Review Arrangements or appeals process, it must take all reasonable steps to identify any other affected Learners, correct or mitigate as far as possible the effect of the failure, and ensure that the failure does not recur. Awarding organisations must ensure that if specific Qualification Level Conditions are in place for Review Arrangements or appeals, such as those for reviews of Moderation, they are adhered to before considering the following guidance.

What should an awarding organisation do when it discovers it has issued an incorrect result?

Where an awarding organisation discovers that it has issued an incorrect result, we expect it to:

  • understand what has happened. It should make sure it gathers adequate information on which to base any decision about what to do next and whether to correct the result;
  • determine whether the issue of the incorrect result has caused any Adverse Effect or whether there is the potential for any Adverse Effect to occur;
  • notify Ofqual, where any Adverse Effect has occurred or could occur (in accordance with Condition B3.1);
  • determine what action to take to, including whether or not to correct the result and whether any other action should be taken;
  • keep a record of the decision it makes in respect of: whether any Adverse Effect has occurred or is likely to occur, whether or not to correct the result and on any other action it takes to prevent, mitigate or correct any Adverse Effect. It should be able to explain, on a case-by-case basis, what action it has taken and why.

What should an awarding organisation consider when deciding what action to take?

Where an awarding organisation discovers that it has issued an incorrect result, it must take all reasonable steps to prevent any Adverse Effect which could be caused or, where this is not possible, to mitigate and correct any Adverse Effect. An Adverse Effect is most likely to be caused where the issuing of the incorrect result:

  • prejudices the Learner who has been issued with the result or prejudices other Learners;
  • adversely affects the standard of the qualification; or
  • adversely affects public confidence in regulated qualifications.

In some instances, issuing an incorrect result could cause more than one Adverse Effect and these could happen at different times.

Where the issuing of the incorrect result has had or could have an Adverse Effect, the default position is that the awarding organisation should correct the result. In most cases this will either prevent the Adverse Effect from occurring or otherwise mitigate or correct it.

However, we recognise that correcting the result may have a negative impact such that, balancing this impact against the Adverse Effect(s) involved, it would not be a reasonable step for the awarding organisation to correct the result.

Even where the awarding organisation does not consider the issuing of the incorrect result has had or could have an Adverse Effect, it will have breached a Condition. Correcting the result will help remedy that breach. Again, we recognise that in some cases the negative impact of correcting the result may be such that this would not be a reasonable course of action for the awarding organisation to take.

We expect an awarding organisation to consider all relevant factors in order to:

  • identify any Adverse Effects caused (or potentially caused) by issuing the incorrect result; and
  • decide what action it would be reasonable to take, balancing any Adverse Effect against any negative impact which may be caused by correcting the result.

The list below sets out factors which we expect an awarding organisation to consider when deciding on a reasonable course of action (alongside any other relevant factors).

  • Impact on the Learner who has been issued with an incorrect result − The awarding organisation should consider whether allowing an incorrect result to stand or correcting the result could prejudice the Learner. For example, prejudice may be caused if the result is corrected where the original result has already been used to make decisions, such as whether to re-take a qualification, enrol in further or higher education, or enter employment. Conversely, in some situations allowing a Learner to rely on a result which he/she has not actually achieved may prejudice that Learner.
  • Impact on other Learners − The awarding organisation should consider whether allowing an incorrect result to stand could prejudice other Learners. For example, Learner A could miss out on a progression opportunity to Learner B because Learner B has incorrectly been given a higher result than his/her performance merited.
  • Public confidence − The awarding organisation should consider the impact on public confidence in regulated qualifications of it issuing an incorrect result and of the action it takes in response.
  • Standards − The awarding organisation should consider the impact on the standard of the qualification if it does not correct the error.
  • Number of Learners affected − The impacts on other Learners, on standards and on public confidence are likely to be greater if many Learners are affected.
  • Reliance on the incorrect result by third parties − Where third parties have relied on, or are likely to rely on, the incorrect result, the awarding organisation should consider whether that increases the possibility of an Adverse Effect. For example, if a qualification is a licence to practise, the awarding organisation should consider whether allowing a Learner who may not have demonstrated the level of competence indicated by the incorrect result to keep that result could have an Adverse Effect.
  • Timing − The length of time since the result was issued and any indication given by the awarding organisation that the result may or may not be final.
  • Malpractice - Whether the Learner’s own actions (including malpractice) contributed to the incorrect result being issued.

The extent to which each factor is relevant, and whether there are any others that should be considered, will vary. This could depend, for example, on the purpose of the qualification and how it is used by the Learner or other Users of qualifications. Consideration of all the factors may not all point towards one action.

An awarding organisation should determine which factors are relevant and give appropriate weight to these in each case when deciding on its course of action.

What should an awarding organisation do after deciding what action to take?

After deciding what action to take, an awarding organisation should take all reasonable steps to communicate any change in result to any affected Learners and, where appropriate, reissue results and/or certificates.

Condition I4.2(a) requires awarding organisations to take all reasonable steps to issue a certificate and any replacement certificate. Where an awarding organisation has decided to correct the result, it should ensure it does this.

An awarding organisation should consider any further actions it needs to take. In accordance with Condition B3.5, the awarding organisation should notify Ofqual of any steps that it has taken or intends to take to prevent an Adverse Effect, or to correct or mitigate any Adverse Effect that occurs.

In accordance with Condition A6, an awarding organisation should consider whether or not its contingency plan should be updated.

Condition D3.3 requires that where an event relating to an awarding organisation has had an Adverse Effect, it must review and revise where necessary its approach to the development, delivery and award of qualifications to ensure it remains appropriate.

What happens where an incorrect result is discovered as part of Review Arrangements or an appeals process?

Awarding organisations are required to have in place a process for the appeal of results. In some qualifications, awarding organisations are also required to have Review Arrangements in place (for example for a review of marking in GCSE, AS and A level qualifications). As well as this, Ofqual has put in place an appeals process for some qualifications.

Following an appeal (or a review) the result must be changed or confirmed as appropriate, in accordance with any relevant requirements (for example those relating to a review of marking in GCSE, AS and A level qualifications).