An end-of-year examinations review

Written by: Jugjit Chima | Published:
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There are six reasons why every school should review their ‘exams year’. Jugjit Chima explains and offers some further advice

Now the summer exams series has come to a close, the senior leadership team should be aware of the pivotal role played by their exams officer in helping to support students and teachers over recent weeks.

However, it should not be assumed that your exams officer is only engaged in activity over the summer months.

There is no respite for these often underestimated members of staff, as they prepare for results day(s) and the inevitable appeals and enquiries about results, before planning for 2015/16 assessments and exams.

Exams office staff will also need to be up-to-date with reforms across qualifications and all subject areas – the exams officer role is both complex and demanding.

Many exams officers will also be undertaking a review of their exams year before the end of term. The leadership team is advised to carefully consider this document as it will provide valuable information which will further improve the way in which exams are conducted. There are six reasons why every school or college should review their exams year:

  1. To provide the leadership team with an overview of the exams year, highlighting what went well and what could be developed or improved in terms of exams management and administrative processes within the stages of the exam cycle. This includes planning, entries, pre-exams, exam time, results and post-results.
  2. To highlight any risks identified within the exams system.
  3. To inform contingency planning in the event of emergencies or unexpected events.
  4. To inform your centre’s exams policy.
  5. To demonstrate how the exam budget was spent, and where savings can be made during the forthcoming academic year.
  6. To inform the performance management of the exams officer and exams office team.

So, what should be contained in an “exams review”, and why? (This is not an exhaustive list.)

Planning

  • How effectively was qualification data collected from subject staff?
  • What were the roles/responsibilities regarding Access Arrangements?
  • Were controlled assessments/coursework conducted in line with the Joint Council for Qualifications’ (JCQ) regulations?

Exam entries

  • Were exam entry deadlines met?
  • Which departments failed to meet deadlines?
  • What is the process for making amendments or withdrawals to exam entries?
  • What was the cost breakdown of exam entry fees, including late exam entry fees?

Pre-exams

  • How were candidates notified of access arrangements?
  • How were invigilators recruited and trained? What was the cost of this training?
  • Which rooms were used for exams?
  • Were there any exam rooming or timetabling issues?
  • Were there any “exam clash candidates”? If so, how were they accommodated?
  • How were candidates briefed on JCQ exam rules, regulations and information?
  • Were exams papers and materials received, checked, tracked and securely stored in line with JCQ regulations?
  • Were staff informed of the process and deadline dates relating to controlled assessment/coursework marks and sample submissions?
  • Acquire a breakdown of candidate numbers by access arrangement (for example, how many needed extra time? Or a reader? etc.)

Exam Time

  • Were exams run in accordance with JCQ rules and regulations?
  • Did each exam room contain an “incident log”? Were there any incidents of malpractice? If so, how were these dealt with?
  • Will there be any “Special Consideration” applications?
  • Acquire a copy of the JCQ Centre Inspection Report. If there are any issues, discuss how these will be addressed. Remember, this is a centre inspection report not an exams officer inspection report.

Results and post-results

  • Will results be issued in accordance with the JCQ release of results information/guidance?
  • With regard to post-results services, is JCQ information and guidance followed?
  • What are the arrangements for the dissemination of exam certificates?

Evaluation

  • Has feedback been obtained from staff, candidates and invigilators?
  • Regarding the service provided by the exams officer and the conducting of exams, are there any areas in need of improvement?

Learning and development

  • Has the exams officer undertaken any training, learning or development activities in the last 12 months? If so, how has this made the exams officer more effective or improved their ways of working?
  • Identify the professional development needs of your exams officer during the forthcoming academic year.

Action plan

Based upon the content of your exams review, devise an action plan to identify what should be improved and developed, how this will be achieved, by whom and by when.

Although an exams review may be viewed as an additional task at the end of very busy year, it is a document which exists in the most efficient and effective exams offices.

More than a good practice process, it shows that not only is the leadership team aware of how one of the largest departmental budgets is being spent (and whether it can be spent more efficiently), but that it is also aware of the significance of the task undertaken by their exams officer in helping their students to achieve their academic potential.

  • Jugjit Chima is one of the founders of The Exams Office, an online support tool for exams officers and data managers. Visit www.theexamsoffice.org

Further information
The documents referenced from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) can be found at www.jcq.org.uk, including information on results and certification at www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/results-and-certification


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