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Video: How we work out your results
You have worked hard to teach your students in preparation for their exams. They have taken their exams, completed their coursework and now their results have arrived. Most of the results are probably what you expected but a few of them might be unexpected.
On this page we will provide an overview of:
We work out a student's result in three stages:
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We mark exam papers in three different ways:
To make sure all students' exam scripts are marked to the same standard, we:
If we find any problems with an examiner's work, we always address the problem. Our first responsibility is to your students. At the end of the marking period (before results are issued) senior examiners will re-mark the work of any student who we believe is at risk of receiving the wrong grade.
Moderation of coursework
Some coursework components are marked internally and moderated by teachers, and externally moderated by Cambridge.
For a school, the internal marking process involves three main steps:
In external moderation, Cambridge will check the internal making and standardisation of a school. If the marking is judged by Cambridge to be valid and reliable, the marks will be accepted. However, if the marking is judged to be too severe or too generous, the marks will be changed.
Where the marking from a school is internally inconsistent, we may re-mark all of the work. This is very rare.
We set grade thresholds for each syllabus using a mixture of statistical evidence and professional judgement. First we set grade thresholds for each component. We then combine these component grade thresholds to give us the grade thresholds for each syllabus option.
Our objective in setting grade thresholds is to maintain standards from year to year so that a student who performs the same way gets the same grade, regardless of when they took their exams.
You can find grade thresholds under each qualification section on our website and on Teacher Support.
Working out a student's grade
Once we have marks for each of the components a student has taken, we combine these marks into an overall total for the syllabus option they have taken. We then work out a student's grade by comparing their overall syllabus mark to the syllabus grade thresholds. If a student has an overall total of 75 marks, and the grade 'A' threshold is 80 and the grade 'B' threshold is 70, the student will be given a 'B' grade.
The marks for some components are adjusted by a weighting factor (please refer to the syllabus document). For example, imagine a syllabus consisting of Paper 1 worth 100 marks and Paper 2 worth 50 marks. If the syllabus document says that the papers are equally weighted, we would double a student's Paper 2 mark before adding it to their Paper 1 mark.
We do not report component grades to students because we do not use component grades to work out their syllabus grade. The syllabus grade is worked out by comparing the student's total marks to the overall grade threshold for the syllabus. However, we do report component grades to schools. Teachers tell us they often find component grade information a useful indicator of how their students performed on different papers.
If you think a student's grade is incorrect, you can ask us to check our marking or moderation using our 'enquiry about results' (EAR) services.
The most common enquiry about results services involve either a review of the marking or a re-moderation.
If the outcome of an enquiry is to change the student's grade, we will not charge you for it. If we got the grade wrong, you shouldn't have to pay us to put it right.
Professional judgment and tolerance
When an enquiry about results is made, we correct any errors in objective marking. Objective marking is when an answer is either correct or incorrect e.g. multiple choice questions.
However, not all questions can be marked objectively. Some exams require subjective marking, where deciding if the answer is correct or incorrect is not straight forward, e.g. essay questions. In these cases, the examiner makes a decision using their professional judgement as they apply the mark scheme. We take great care to train our examiners to apply their professional judgement consistently and have a number of checks in place to make sure this happens.
During the enquiry about results process, a senior reviewing examiner looks at the subjective marking for that script and states whether they agree or disagree with the original examiner’s marks. If the reviewing examiner disagrees with the original examiner’s marks, we review the level of difference between the marks given.
If the difference in the marking is greater than the agreed 'tolerance' (typically one or two marks), we amend the marks. We amend the original marks because there is a significant difference in professional judgement between our examiners and we accept the judgement of the senior reviewing examiner.
If the difference in the marking is equal to or lower than the agreed 'tolerance' then the original marks stand. We allow the original marks to stand because this is a small difference in professional judgement between our examiners, and not an error in the way the mark scheme has been applied.
We use tolerance in this way both at the enquiry about results stage and during the main marking period. This helps to ensure that we are fair to all candidates, including those who do not request an enquiry about results. We apply this principle regardless of whether the reviewing examiner’s mark is higher or lower than the original mark.
Outcomes from an enquiry about results
We monitor the outcomes of enquiries about results for a number of reasons, including making sure that an examiner has not marked a substantial number of the papers from the same school incorrectly. If we are concerned this may have happened, we extend the enquiry to include other students from that school.
Extensions of enquiries about results to check students' work are extremely rare for papers marked on screen. This is because of the way in which students' papers are randomly allocated to examiners. It is highly unlikely that the same examiner has marked more than a small handful of papers from the same school and so equally unlikely that the criteria for an extension will be met.
Once an enquiry has taken place, we don't look at the marking of a paper again. However, you can use our appeals process if you think that in reaching our results, we have failed to apply our procedures properly and fairly in arriving at our judgments, or if you think that we used procedures that were inconsistent with our Code of Practice.
Stage 1 of the Appeals process is carried out by senior members of Cambridge staff. Stage 2 is carried out by an independent panel.