There are two exam series throughout the academic year: Winter and Summer. The Winter series includes GCSEs for some subjects; the Summer series contains GCSEs, AS and A level exams. This section outlines the process of setting and awarding as well as information about specific series.
Exams are set to test student’s knowledge, understanding and skills as detailed in the published subject specification. The development of each exam is undertaken by the awarding body and is an 18-month process to ensure it is valid, reliable and will produce accurate results for the students who sit them.
The awarding body Subject Officer manages the process. The Principal Examiner will draft question paper and mark scheme, which then checked and amended by the Reviser. The materials are then reviewed by a panel of subject experts to ensure each question is readable and a valid assessment.
Once the paper has been proofed and typeset, a Scrutineer tests the paper to ensure it can be completed in the time allowed, there are no errors or omissions and it is pitched at the appropriate level. It is then returned to the Subject Officer, Principal Examiner and Reviser for a final check before submission.
At the end of the exam the completed papers are sent securely to examiners for marking. The examiners are all qualified and experienced teachers of the subject they are marking. They are also trained each year to mark to the awarding bodies’ requirements at face-to-face conferences.
To ensure standards are maintained during the marking process, random samples of marking are selected from every examiner and checked by another senior and experienced examiner for accuracy and consistency. The chief examiner provides feedback to examiners about their marking and, if necessary, examiners who are not marking correctly are stopped and the answers are remarked by another examiner. More can be read about marking here.
Once all scripts have been marked, the senior examiners meet to decide on where to set the grade boundaries. In reaching their decisions they will consider the standard of the work they have marked, review a range of student work with marks near to the grade boundaries and consider statistical evidence.
To ensure the awarding process is fair to those students taking a qualification for the first time a method called comparable outcomes is used is ensure it is no easier or difficult for a student to get a particular grade in any other year. More can be read about comparable outcomes here. More detail about standards and awarding can be found here.
There are many misconceptions about the exam process that many presume to be true. Click here to read about what are the most commons myths.
How is Qualifications Wales involved?
Qualifications Wales monitors and oversees the awarding phase, which happens after scripts are marked and returned to exam boards.
Before the award of a qualification is confirmed, the exam boards must report their proposed grade boundaries and outcomes to us. If the overall outcomes are diﬀerent to what we would expect them to be, we ask the exam board to explain why.
If we are not satisfied we can ask the exam board to look again at the award or to conduct additional analysis to confirm its proposed award. Please find more details here.
Complaints are an important source of information about the qualifications system and we take them seriously. If you have a complaint about an awarding body or a regulated qualification, you should contact the awarding body in the first instance or where relevant the learning provider.
However, if you have exhausted the awarding body’s complaints procedure and remain dissatisfied, you should bring the complaint to our attention. Please find more information here.
Many websites and articles online offer general and basic tips for revision, such as spreading out your revision over time and making sure you get a good nights sleep before an exam. More information can be found at the links below.
A list of signs of stress to look out for during exam times is published here.
A summary of tips to avoid stress can also be found here along with links to further resources that may be able to offer help and advice if you are worried about exam stress.