What happens to my exam paper after I hand it in?

Exam paper being handed in

What happens to your precious answer booklet between the invigilator saying "stop writing" and the results arriving in August?

Here's the whole process, step by step.

Straight after the exam

The completed answer booklets (known as exam scripts) are put into secure storage and collected by a courier or sent off by post.

The scripts are then scanned and marked online or sent to exam board markers.

Question papers

Teachers can get hold of the question papers between one and ten days after an exam in secure sections of exam board websites.

They’re not released publicly for everyone to use until around a year later, to allow teachers to use them for mocks.

Marking your paper

Marking takes up to twelve weeks and involves assessing millions of answers. AQA alone marks more than seven million scripts.

Markers are qualified teachers led by senior examiners who complete online training in order to mark to the required standard. They use mark schemes and sample answers to each exam question, to make sure their marking is accurate.

During the marking period, markers’ work is checked for consistency and fairness. Highly experienced senior examiners review a sample of marking from each marker and provide them with detailed feedback.

If someone isn’t marking properly they won’t be allowed to carry on, and their scripts will be given to a different marker for remarking.

Student writing in exam in pencil

Grade boundaries

Once all the exam papers have been marked, grade boundaries are set. While exam boards aim to keep the level of difficulty  of their exams the same from year to year, in practice some are a bit harder than others, so grade boundaries change from year to year to make sure that standards remain consistent.

To set grade boundaries, senior examiners meet to compare this year's scripts with last year's and use statistics, for example on how that year group have performed in previous tests, to guide their judgement,  

Results day

After this process has been applied to every exam, the results are released back to schools and colleges – and you. You will get your provisional results slip, with your grades for each subject.

They are provisional because schools and colleges can apply for a review of marking if there’s a genuine reason a student hasn’t got the result they expected. This review of marking won’t always lead to a higher grade; in most cases there is no change and occasionally a lower grade is awarded.

If you’re taking GCSE exams this year, results day is on Thursday, 22 August.

Most schools and exam centres will be open for students to collect their results or they will make arrangements to issue them online. Check for the exact timing.

You will be able to collect your AS or A level results any time after 6am on results day – the time they're released by the exam boards – as long as your school or college is open.

Go to our exam results homepage for more info.

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