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The Examination Process

WJEC is committed to being open and transparent with parents and students about our examination processes. This document explains the lifecycle of an examination in further detail. The short videos and text below explain the various stages of the examination process.


The video below provides background information about the examination processes in WJEC.

Getting a qualification usually means taking exams. Examinations are used to measure a student's knowledge and understanding of the subject they have been studying. WJEC sets the examinations for over 500 qualifications including GCSEs, A levels and other types of academic and vocational qualifications. This means that each year we mark more than 2.7 million exams and award almost 900,000 qualifications.

But how do we do that?

A guide to setting question papers

The video below explains the question paper production process.

When students have completed their course of study, they need to sit an exam which will assess specific areas of knowledge, understanding and skills as detailed in the published specification. As it is impractical to assess all the content in one exam, our question papers are designed to test certain aspects, so that over time, all the content of the specification is covered.

When designing a question paper and its mark scheme, issues of validity and reliability are considered at the very early stage to make sure that the questions are fit for purpose and that they will produce accurate results for the students sitting them. Creating the question papers takes approximately 18 months to complete.

At WJEC, a Subject Officer manages the development of the materials. The Principal Examiners are responsible for writing the questions. When designing the questions they carefully consider the content of the specification, the assessment objectives, questions set for any previous exam series and how students responded to them. When the Principal Examiner has drafted the question paper and mark scheme, it is then reviewed by the Reviser. The Reviser considers the questions and mark schemes carefully with reference to the specification, ensuring that they are of comparable demand to previous series and that there are no errors or omissions. The Reviser may recommend changes to the question paper and mark scheme which will be carried out by the Principal Examiner.

The materials will then be reviewed by a group of subject experts, who will carefully consider each question to ensure that it is a valid assessment and can be reliably marked. They will also consider the readability of the questions and any other issues that may impact on the students’ ability to complete the exams. Once the group of subject experts is satisfied with the question paper, it is then passed over to our production team who work with the subject team to create the final version.

The question paper is typeset, including any images and diagrams and is proof checked to ensure accurate spelling, grammar and layout. It is then sent to the Scrutineer, who reviews the paper to ensure that the questions can be answered in the time allowed, that they are pitched at the correct level of challenge and that the language is clear and accessible. The Scrutineer also reviews the mark scheme to ensure that there are no errors or omissions. At this stage the question paper is translated into Welsh, if required. The Welsh version is reviewed by a Welsh editor and a subject specialist before the final version is created.

The Subject Officer, the Principal Examiner and the Reviser will review the question paper again before it is sent to print. WJEC prints and dispatches all its question papers to the schools and colleges who have made entries for the qualifications. Once a paper has been signed-off any modified versions are created. These include large print and braille versions, which are requested by the schools and colleges for their students. These are quality checked by the Subject Officer and Principal Examiner. The question papers are received by the schools and colleges, ready for the students to sit the timetabled exam.

A guide to marking

The video below explains the marking process.

After students have sat an exam their completed answer booklets are sent securely to examiners for marking. In some subjects students sit their exams online. 

Examiners often mark the original paper booklets by hand although sometimes the answer booklets are scanned and examiners mark these using computers. The exams sat online will also be marked on a computer.

Our examiners are qualified and experienced teachers of the subject they are marking. They are fully trained each year to mark to WJEC's standards and requirements.

At the start of the marking period, examiners mark the same selection of questions and answers and meet in subject groups to discuss and compare their marking. To help them mark accurately and consistently, a mark scheme is written by the chief examiner to provide detailed guidance and sample answers for each question.

Throughout the marking period, a random sample of marking is selected for each 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.

Once all the answer booklets have been marked and returned to WJEC, the awarding process takes place.

view our marking process

A guide to awarding

The video below explains the awarding process.

After the marking has finished, awarding is the process of deciding how well a student has done.

Some qualifications just have a pass grade and here the awarding process makes sure that students have reached the required standard to achieve the qualification.

Qualifications like GCSE and A levels have a number of different grades which indicate how well the student has done relative to other students in that year. This can be a useful indication to prospective employers and education providers of how well a student understands the subject.

Having different grades means making decisions about where the boundaries between each grade should lie.

WJEC always aims to set exam papers with the same level of difficulty, but as the exam papers are different each year, there is always a risk that a particular exam might be a little more or less demanding than previous ones.

So that students are not disadvantaged by this, separate grade boundaries are usually set for each exam paper and for any coursework and controlled assessment.

This takes place at an awarding meeting where a group of senior examiners compare student answers from last year with this year's answers to see if the marks line up at the same standard.

To make a fair comparison with the previous year, statistics are also used to see if this year's group of students are different from those in the previous year. These statistics compare factors such as age, gender, type of school, and student performance in previous exams.

After careful consideration of all the evidence, the senior examiners decide what the minimum mark for each grade should be to ensure the grade boundaries for the current year are at the same standard as the previous year.

WJEC then applies these grade boundaries and calculates the grade each student has achieved.

To ensure that we can have confidence in the standard of qualifications, this process is overseen by the qualifications regulators (Ofqual in England, Welsh Government in Wales and CCEA in Northern Ireland) and all awarding organisations have to follow the same Code of Practice.

A guide to post results services

The video below explains the post-results services.

Sometimes a student or the school/college is concerned about the results received on results day. They may feel that the final grade awarded is not what they expected. In such cases the school or college can apply to WJEC for one of its post-results services.

The main services that can be requested are clerical checks and a review of the marking. These can be requested for individual students. In the case of non-examined assessments or coursework/controlled assessments, the school or college may request a review of the moderated work. This means that the original sample of work submitted by the school/college and moderated by WJEC is reviewed by another moderator. This service is not available for individual students.

When carrying out a clerical check, WJEC staff will go through the exam paper to make sure that all marks have been included and added up correctly and that the student has been awarded the correct mark as indicated on the exam paper.

When carrying out a review of the marking or moderation, a different assessor will consider the marks awarded by the original examiner or moderator to make sure that the mark scheme has been applied appropriately.

If the clerical check or a review of the marking/ moderation leads to a change of mark and grade, either upwards or downwards, the changes will be implemented and the amended result will be sent to the school or college.

If the original grade remains unchanged the school or college will be charged for the service.

There are other post-results services that WJEC offers, such as a request for a photocopy of a student’s completed exam paper. These can be requested for some qualifications, before a decision is made to request a review of the marking. Schools and colleges may also request the original copies of students’ exam papers, usually to aid teaching and learning.These exam papers are not released until well after the deadline for post-results services, as any original exam papers sent to a school or college cannot then be reviewed for marking or clerical checks. Full details of all the post-results services are available on the WJEC website.