During exam season, emotions are heightened as students across the UK wait tensely for their results to arrive. This can be a stressful time for everyone involved. However, it’s important to remember that, whilst these grades are important, it’s not the end of the world if you receive a grade lower than expected. If you feel that you deserve some extra marks, you can always file what’s called an “academic appeal”.
An academic appeal is used when a student feels they have received an unfair grade. You can’t just apply for an appeal because you want a higher grade. There has to be a genuine reason for the application. Each appeal costs you money, which will then be refunded if the application is successful. Appeals aren’t granted all that often in the UK, which is why you must think carefully and collate lots of evidence beforehand.
For more information on academic appeals, including how long they take to be processed, how often they’re successful, and the grounds on which you can make an appeal, keep reading!
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What are academic appeals in the UK?
In the UK, an academic appeal is when a student who has recently received their results requests for the exam board to re-think their grade. There are many different reasons students may want to appeal. Usually, it’s because the student feels that they have been biased against in some way.
In order to make an appeal, you must submit a form to the exam board including a statement explaining the reason for your appeal. You should also attach a folder of evidence supporting your claim if you want a good chance of the appeal being approved.
There are a few situations where there may not be any evidence to attach. In this case, it’s worth explaining the reason no evidence has been provided in the statement. Once this process has been completed, you’ll need to email the statement and any corresponding evidence to the exam board. This article from UCAS explains how the process of appealing works.
How long does an academic appeal take?
Once you have submitted your request, the appeal will be processed by the exam board. Depending on the type of appeal and the exam board you’re with, this could be anywhere between 4 and 8 weeks. After receiving your grades, you only have 21 days to submit your appeals, so it’s a good idea to apply as soon as possible.
By getting your appeal in quickly, you won’t have to stress about missing the deadline. This also means you’ll receive the news of whether the appeal was successful or not faster. Exam boards work through appeals on a first-come, first-served basis. Basically, the sooner you get that statement in, the better.
Why would you need to make an academic appeal?
There are three main reasons why students would want to make an academic appeal. For most exam boards, these are the only three reasons you can appeal after receiving a grade. Any other reason you may have to appeal will most likely be ignored or rejected by the exam board.
This article from AQA lists all the reasons they deem as legitimate to make an appeal.
1. Appealing a re-mark decision
The first, and most common, reason to appeal is arguing that an exam has been unfairly marked. If you’ve already had a re-mark and still haven’t gained the result you want, you can appeal the re-mark.
Due to the way exams work, there are always a handful of students who end up just a couple of marks off a grade. Lots of students request a re-mark to see if they can gain those extra marks and move up a grade. However, there is a risk involved as, whilst the mark could go up, it could also go down. For more information about re-marks, take a look at this article from Think Student.
If the re-mark is unsuccessful and you believe that this is due to biased marking against you, then you can make an appeal. However, this will cost you yet more money and may still result in the same mark. You’ll need plenty of evidence to back up your claims in order to be successful in the appeal.
2. Appealing a malpractice decision
The second reason you may want to apply for an appeal is to remove a malpractice decision from the exam board. Specifically with coursework, if the exam board thinks you have been unfairly aided or marked by your teachers, they may apply a malpractice penalty to your mark.
If you think that you completed your coursework following the rules, you can appeal this malpractice penalty. The same process is followed, and the exam board will make a decision on whether you should be allowed the full marks or not.
3. Appealing special consideration decisions
Special considerations are given to people in exceptional circumstances who may do worse in their exams due to their situation. For example, if the candidate has suffered a recent bereavement or has an illness which would seriously affect their concentration (not a common cold!).
Special considerations are rarely given and even when they are, do not provide many extra marks for the candidate. If you do not think that a special consideration was applied, or that you deserve one to be, then you should appeal to the exam board.
How often are academic appeals granted in the UK?
Unfortunately for students, most academic appeals made in the UK are rejected. Lots of appeals are made by students who are searching for an extra grade where it isn’t deserved. For this reason, exam boards are very harsh in their criteria for a successful academic appeal.
This government article contains the official statistics on how many academic appeals were accepted and rejected in 2021 and 2022.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still apply for an appeal. If you genuinely believe that you deserve some extra marks due to one of the three reasons above, you should still appeal. What you shouldn’t do is appeal just because you’re looking for an easy way to increase your grade. This will rarely work!
Is an academic appeal worth it?
An academic appeal is only worth it if you’re sure you deserve some extra marks. However, there are a few pros and cons to making academic appeals, which you should consider beforehand.
To start, there’s the chance that you might gain some extra marks. If you’re lucky enough, this might also lead to you reaching the next grade up. Especially for university and college applications, this grade could be the difference between being accepted and being rejected.
However, although academic appeals may seem tempting because they give you a chance to improve your grade, there are lots of pitfalls. Firstly, you have to pay for each appeal made. This money is then lost if the appeal isn’t successful.
It is also extremely difficult to have an appeal approved. The exam board is so specific in their requirements. Even if you can provide plenty of evidence and a good argument, they may still reject the application. This list written by the University of Sussex explains all the reasons why an application might be rejected.
Overall, making an academic appeal is a big risk, and there is a good chance you could be £100 poorer by the end of the process. However, if you’re completely sure that you have a good reason to appeal and are prepared to take that risk, then there is the chance you could increase your grade. That choice is yours to make.