We’ve all been there, received a grade that we’re unhappy with. Sometimes it was just a bad exam, but you may have felt that you actually did pretty well and the grade doesn’t reflect your efforts. In that case, you may be able to appeal your grade. While the process of appealing final grades can be intimidating and challenging, it’s important to raise your concerns if you feel your grades have been unfairly assessed.
Can I appeal my final grade?
Almost all universities, colleges and schools will allow you to appeal your final grade. The decision to allow you to appeal your grade is often tied to the exam board of the exams you’ve sat, however, it is rare that students are not allowed to appeal their grade.
It’s likely you will need to put your request in writing and provide evidence to support their appeal. This isn’talways necessary, especially if you no longer have access to the work that is being graded (i.e. an exam).Each university, school, or college will have its own clearly defined appeals process for you to follow.
How to appeal a grade
Each institution will have its own set of guidelines and criteria for those looking to appeal a grade. It may be that you only have a certain timeframe to raise your appeal or a limit on how many times you can appeal one specific grade. Typically, an appeal may be limited to a specified time or may have a limit imposed on how many times you can appeal one specific grade. The most important thing is to talk to your college, school or university.
The most common stages are:
- Step one: Check the timeframe.
- Step two: Make sure it is an appeal and not a complaint.
- Step three: Submit the complaint.
- Step four: Make sure you receive a procedure completion letter.
- Step five: Consider your next step.
- Step six: Complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) service if you still feel your grade to be unfair.
You also need to know if you are submitting an appeal or a complaint. These are two different things and universities, schools and colleges handle them all differently.
When can I appeal my grades?
The appeals window will depend on the circumstances and the university. Typically, universities allow longer for those who have mitigating circumstances.
The window for appeals is around 15 days after you have received your review decision. A review decision can take any amount of time to return to a student, but usually takers around four weeks.
What are the deadlines for appeals?
This will depend on where and what you are studying as, A-Levels and GCSEs will have different appeal deadlines than BTEC grades or a university grade.
Most appeals for the final grades of A-Levels are processed earlier as they are the last stop before getting your university offers. If appeals are going through the examining body, then the deadlines may be different depending on who it is.
Appeal or complaint?
There is a difference between an appeal and a complaint. The difference can often mean that one is taken up directly by the institute and the other is taken up by the examining body of the exam you sat.
The difference is in the definition. An appeal is a request to review the decision of a board of examiners for a grade and will be looked over by the exam board. A complaint is a raised concern over the standard of teaching and quality of facilities etc. and is dealt with by the institution itself.
It’s good to know the difference. For example, if you list poor facilities and teaching as a reason for a final grade, then the university may ask you to submit an appeal and a complaint at the same time.
What do I do if my appeal isn’t upheld?
It is still possible to take the matter elsewhere. Students can take their case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). You can only apply for the OIA within three months of the initial university’s internal procedure.
This is an independent committee and, it does not rule on academic judgement. For example, the OIA cannot overturn a grade but they are able to involve themselves if clear bias can be shown, or there was mitigating circumstances that affected your performance or studying time.
How long does an appeal take?
This really depends but most institutes aim to have their appeal decisions within four weeks of your original appeal being, but it has been known to take longer.
Other students may be appealing grades of their own. If an exam board or institute has lots of appeals to sift through, it will take longer than usual.
Who can I appeal to?
The appeal processes will dependon what qualification type you are appealing.
Typically, you can appeal to:
- CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) if you're in Northern Ireland.
- Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) if you're in England.
- WJEC (Welsh Joint Education Committee) if you're in Wales.
Again, the appeal window will vary. Generally, you will need to appeal within 15 days of receiving your decision. You will always receive a letter reasoning the final outcome of any appeal.
What supporting documents do I need?
The supporting documents required will depend on the reason for your appeal.. This will mainly involve English translations of any documentation, medical information and evidence (where required)related to mitigating circumstances.
If you are appealing on the basis of bereavement, then you may be asked for other evidence, such as supplying a photocopy of a death certificate. It has also been known for universities to ask for letters of support from Student Support, police reports, local authority letters or letters from family.
How do I know if I am eligible for the appeals process?
Eligibility will depend on what you are appealing. If you believe that your exam or coursework hasn’t been fairly graded, then you will be eligible to appeal it. The OIA also looks at the grounds for an appeal and sees if you are justified in appealing your decision.
Most universities have set criteria for appeals. These criteria will outlay what category you fall into and whether you can apply. Be sure to read this beforehand as any appeals that do not meet the eligibility guidelines will be rejected outright. Exam boards such as CCEA have their exam appeals process outlined on their website, while Ofqual, the exam board, must receive any requests for a review within 21 days of your appeal decision from the exam board.