Not happy with your A-level results?

The UK exam system has been turned upside by Covid-19, with students unable to take exams and instead relying on their teacher to work with exam boards to calculate your grades.

But what if you're worried there's been a mistake - or that your grade was awarded unfairly?

Exams regulator Ofqual has revealed a new appeals process to take into account the unique circumstances exam applicants have found themselves in this year. And on Wednesday, the government unexpectedly announced a new 'triple lock' system which could allow students to use mock exam results instead of their official grades.

In previous years, students have been able to apply for a re-marking of their papers, but since no exam papers were sat this summer, this process no longer applies.

Instead, you can ask your school to check that no administrative errors have impacted on your grade, or your school can apply for an appeal if it believes their historic data does not reflect the ability of their current students.

Although exam bodies believe these cases should be "rare", there's also a process for students who believe they've been the victims of bias or discrimination in the way their teachers have calculated their grades.

How were grades worked out this year?

Because exams weren't possible, in 2020 teachers were asked to calculate students' grades based on previous evidence of their work and a detailed ranking system.

Teachers were asked to send exam boards what grade schools believe students would have most likely got if exams had happened as planned - often based on things like mock exams.

They were also asked to produce a ranked list of all students within each grade for each subject (this is the 'centre assessment grade'). For example: If a school had 20 pupils sitting A-level maths who had been graded as getting a B in A-level maths, they should be ranked from 1 to 20, where 1 is the “most secure/highest attaining”, 2 is the next most secure, and so on.

Teachers were told to be “fair, objective, and carefully considered” when submitting the grades.

The Department for Education said that exam boards will then “combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student”.

Exam boards also use a statistical model based on the school's past results. This is intended to prevent schools from being 'over generous' about their pupils' scores, but it has led to fears that some students could be at a disadvantage because of the school they go to.

Can I be graded another way?

GCSE and A-level students in England will be able to use grades in mock exams to progress to university and college courses and employment, the Education Secretary announced on the eve of results day.

Results in mock tests - which were held before schools were forced to close amid the Covid-19 crisis - will carry the same weight as the calculated results, Gavin Williamson said.

Students can keep their grades in mock exams if they are higher than their teacher's calculated grade, with regulator Ofqual asked to determine how and when valid mock results can be used.

Students will have to go through the appeals process to use their mock exam result, with their school required to submit evidence to the exam board. All three grades will hold the same value with universities, colleges and employers.

How can I appeal?

There are a few different appeals processes to consider here.

Firstly, as a pupil, you can ask your school or college to check whether it made an administrative error when submitting their centre assessment grade or position in the rank order and if it agrees it did, to submit an appeal to the exam board.

The schools themselves can also appeal, either if they believe an error has been made, or if they believe that the exam board's judgement of their results does not reflect recent improvements.

A school which has had a recent change of leadership, for example, could argue that previous low results are not an indicator of their current quality of teaching and therefore shouldn't be used by exam boards to suggest that this year's high scores are inaccurate.

Talk to your school if you think something has gone wrong and find out whether they want to submit an appeal.

If your school or college won’t submit an appeal on your behalf it must have a process in place for you to ask for a review of that decision, so that someone else at your centre considers your request. You should first raise this with your school or college.

If your mock exam result was higher than your official score, inform your school that you would like this to be counted as your grade instead.

You should notify your school or college who will provide evidence of their mock results to the exam board.

England’s exams regulator has said it is “working urgently” to set out what evidence will be needed to ensure mock exam results can be part of an appeal.

A statement from Ofqual said: “We understand why the Government has wanted to provide some additional assurance for students, by confirming that evidence from valid mock exams can be considered as part of an appeal.

“We are working urgently to operationalise this as fairly as possible and to determine what standards of evidence will be required for the appeal. We will provide more detail early next week.

“We will continue to do everything possible to ensure students achieve grades that are as fair as possible in the circumstances this summer.”

What if I think I've been treated unfairly?

Ofqual says: "You are not able to appeal your calculated grade(s) because you disagree with your centre assessment grade(s) and rank order(s).

"However, you might be concerned that your centre assessment grade(s), or your rank order position(s), was/were wrong because you believe the judgement was influenced by factors other than evidence about your academic performance. We know that some students, and groups representing students, were concerned that some centre assessment grades and rank order positions could be influenced by bias or discrimination.

"The national results do not indicate bias on the part of schools and colleges; early analysis suggests there will generally be no widening of gaps between results of different groups of students. This does not mean that there will be no individual cases of bias or discrimination. Such cases would be taken very seriously and we expect them to be rare."

If you are concerned you've been a victim of discrimination, you should start by raising this directly through your school, through their complaints policy, which should be publicly available. If the complaint does not resolve your concerns, you could raise them directly with the exam board that awarded your grade.

This is less an appeal than a serious allegation of malpractice, so you would need to present evidence. You can find more information about the process and specific examples of the sort of evidence that would be considered, here.

Can I resit an exam?

If you don't feel your grade reflected your abilities, one of the best things to do may be to resit.

Announcing the changes to the exam system this year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "There will also be an option, for students who do not feel this grade reflects their performance, to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again."

This was confirmed on Wednesday, as the third facet of the 'triple lock' which ministers insisted would make results fairer.