State exams body defends practice of issuing ‘estimated’ grades

Measures used in exceptional situations where errors occur outside students’ control

The State exams body said the volume of such grades awarded – typically between 100 and 150 in a given year – should be seen in the context of exams with just under 120,000 candidates and more than 1 million grades. Photograph: iStock

The State exams body said the volume of such grades awarded – typically between 100 and 150 in a given year – should be seen in the context of exams with just under 120,000 candidates and more than 1 million grades. Photograph: iStock

 

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has defended its practice of awarding hundreds of “estimated” grades to students.

Internal records show the SEC takes this approach when some or all of a student’s work in not available for marking due to “unique, unforeseen and exceptional” circumstances.

It says these “system failures” can involve students receiving the wrong exam paper or the time allotted for an exam being cut short. These issues are typically brought to the SEC’s attention by the school, superintendent, examiner or parent.

However, a breakdown of results shows a much broader array of cases where these estimated grades have been issued.

In a statement, the SEC said it was required to have procedures in place to deal with “exceptional situations” where exams fail to execute as expected due to factors outside of the candidate’s control.

Justice

“In such circumstances the SEC implements an established process which ensures that full justice is done for the candidate,” it said.

“This process is designed to make an assessment of a candidate’s likely examination performance based on their level of attainment and predicted level of performance in the subject.”

In resolving these incidents, the SEC said it seeks the assistance of the student’s school to help determine the candidate’s expected level of performance in the exam. It said required information can include results of house or mock examinations and an order of merit showing their rank order of performance in their class group.

Senior personnel in the SEC then consider all of the available information in arriving at an assessed result for the candidate.

It said the volume of such grades awarded – typically between 100 and 150 in a given year – should be seen in the context of exams with just under 120,000 candidates and more than 1 million grades.

Concerns

“The SEC has no concerns in relation to the use of these established procedures in order to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged by circumstances where examinations fail to execute as expected for reasons entirely outside of their control,” it said.

“In its dealings with schools and candidates on such matters, the SEC is completely open about the process and the circumstances in which it has arisen.

“It would be patently unfair to penalise a candidate for examination delivery failures, and on the rare occasions where these arise, it is entirely reasonable to expect that there are arrangements that can be made to ensure that candidates are treated fairly in all aspects of the examinations system.”