Disappointed students can request examiners’ comments, says ICO

Students who want to know exactly what the examiner thought of their work can request to see this information under the Data Protection Act, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said.

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Data Protection said: “We’ve all experienced the excitement and occasional disappointment that the exam season can bring.”

He reminded students who recently received their A-Level exams results that “they have a right under the Data Protection Act to see information about their results. Having access to information – such as a breakdown of their overall mark and examiners’ comments – may not lead to their grades being altered but it could help them make decisions that impact on their future, such as deciding to re-sit an exam or pursue a particular subject at college or university.”  

Mr. Smith added that this right doesn’t only apply to A-Level exams. “Students sitting GCSEs, Scottish Highers and degree examinations can also request to see their information. If examination bodies fail in their legal duty to respond then students can bring a complaint to the ICO and we will look into it,” he said.

Under the Act, individuals have the right to request the information that an organisation holds about them – known as a subject access request. Once a request is received an organisation generally has 40 days to respond. In the case of exam results, exam bodies must respond within 40 days from the date the results were published or within five months of the request being received – whichever of the two is the earliest.

The ICO’s guidance – “Individuals’ rights of access to examination records” – can be downloaded from ICO’s website. It also outlines how people can access more general information about college or university policies or procedures.