Appealing against bad grades

After working your ass off for your exams, getting worse grades than you expected can be seriously discouraging. Luckily, you don’t have to take it sitting down. The Mix breaks down how you can take action and appeal against bad grades in your GCSEs, A-levels or at university.

Two young women are discussing appealing bad grades. This is a full-body image.

Can I appeal against bad grades?

Totally. Grading is far from perfect which means that every year thousands of GCSE and A-level students are awarded the wrong results for their work. So it’s no wonder that more people are deciding to appeal their grades. And this was kicked into high gear in 2020 when the nation was forced to use teacher-assessed grades instead of having students sit exams and some young people lost out on getting the good grades they deserve. 

Unfortunately, Ofqual have recently made it harder to get exam papers reviewed in a bid to be more fair… but it’s definitely still worth pushing for it if you feel you deserve more. Alternatively, you might wish to retake your exams, if so, take a look at our guide to retaking GCSEs or A-Levels here.

Who to speak to about appealing your grades

George Turnbull from Ofqual, the Government body responsible for exams says: “The first thing you should do is speak to one of your teachers at your school or college. It’s important to note that students can’t make enquiries directly with the examining board; everything has to go through the school unless you’re an external (or private) candidate.”

What are the deadlines for appealing grades?

GCSE and A-level results are usually published in August. In 2022 this will be 25 August for GCSEs and 18 August for A-levels. Luckily, if your university place depends on your result, appealing A-level grades can be done urgently through a priority review. In case you’re wondering, the deadlines for enquiries in 2022 are:

  • August 16 for A-level priority appeals (e.g. if a university place at your firm choice or insurance is at stake)
  • September 3 for a GCSE script request (accessing your marked paper to decide if you want to ask for a re-mark)
  • On September 17 to skip the GCSE script request and have your paper re-marked
  • September 17 for standard A-level and GCSE enquiries

How long does appealing bad grades take?

The time it takes to deal with an enquiry varies depending on the examining body marking your paper. But one thing’s for sure – the maximum time it’ll take for an A-level priority appeal is 15 days. If it’s a standard A-level or GCSE enquiry the usual period is 20 days.

Does appealing GCSE or A-level results cost anything?

Appealing A-levels and GCSE results is going to cost someone, but it’s up to your school or college who pays for a re-mark: “Students may not have to pay for it themselves”, says George. “Normally the school or college supporting the enquiry will cover the cost”.

Now onto the important stuff – exactly how much are we talking? Well, a clerical re-check costs around £10-£20 depending on the paper and examining body. Essentially, this’ll get them to check for clerical and/or administrative errors; the exam papers are looked over to ensure that every question has been marked and the total awarded for each paper has been correctly calculated. On the other hand, a full re-mark of the exam i.e. going through every question again could cost between £35 and £70.

The good news is that if your overall grade goes up then the payment gets wiped. Nice.

Overview for appealing A-level and GCSE grades

Once you’ve spoken to your teacher or form tutor, this is roughly what should happen during the appeals process:

  • Your school/college/high school/wherever you learn will lodge an enquiry (very formal, we know) with the examining body. This’ll normally result in a re-mark or re-moderation by the awarding body.
  • If you or your school/college are unhappy with the outcome, they can lodge a secondary appeal with the awarding body within two weeks of receiving the first outcome. The awarding body will send a report of the first enquiry to you. Then they’ll take it to the awarding body’s appeals committee.
  • If all that hasn’t gotten you the result you want then your school/college can lodge an appeal with Ofqual. The catch is that this has to be done three weeks after receiving the draft report on the outcome of your appeal from the awarding body. You can find out more about appealing to Ofqual here.

Appealing coursework

If you’re unhappy about a coursework grade then the same rules apply as exams. Speak to a teacher at your school or college to see what they’re willing to do for you. But you should know that coursework re-marks are slightly more complicated than examination re-marks. Carolyn Adams from AQA, one of the UK’s biggest awarding bodies, says: “If you want to get your coursework unit re-marked then the examining body has to re-moderate the whole of the school or college’s coursework. This means the student’s school or college needs to be 110% certain they want to take it forward.”

Appealing university examinations for undergraduates

We can’t really give you a straight answer like we did for appealing A level grades when it comes to uni. This is because every university and/or college has their own policy on appealing against exam and coursework results. So your best bet is to check with your student advice centre. That way you can find out more about your university’s specific procedures.

Appealing bad grades for people outside of England

A lot of our advice throughout this article has been pretty England-centric. But, honestly, dealing with bad grades should involve a similar process throughout the UK. Any differences in the process will usually be down to the different exam board’s guidance. Regardless, if you’re unsure about anything just talk to your teacher and have your school/college process your appeal request. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to contact the exam boards for an appeal directly.

Just FYI, outside of England the main exam boards are:

If you’ve failed an exam and are struggling with how you feel about it, remember you’re not alone. Take a look at this expert answer we gave to a member of our community who failed many of their exams and tests.

Next Steps


results day

By Chris Denholm

Updated on 10-May-2022