Examination recounts result in seven per cent of marks changed

Deputy VC says students should still pay for it when “human error happens”

Following investigations by Critic, it has been found that in 2013, there were 315 applications for a recount of examination results at the University of Otago. Of these, 21 people had their marks changed (6.7 per cent of applications), with 10 of these resulting in a whole letter grade change. In 2012, there were 393 applications, with 20 of the marks changed and 17 of these resulting in a whole letter grade change.

At Otago University, the recount policy states that it involves “a careful re-check of the marks that count toward your final result in a paper.” The purpose of a recount is “to ensure that no answer, no portion of an answer, or any work undertaken during the teaching period which counts for the final result, has been overlooked.” The policy also states that “your work is not re-marked; at the University of Otago there is no provision for any work to be re-marked.” Should results be changed, there is also no refund for the fee.

Critic spoke to one student, who had applied for a recount after being devastated by her “E” grade on CHEM191. Five weeks after she applied for the recount, her new grade appeared on her PIMS account, without any notification from the University, and it had moved from 23 per cent to 64 per cent. She was not offered a refund or a letter of notification for the grade change, but said, “I would have appreciated it, considering it was [the University’s] fault.”

The student eventually had to appeal through OUSA Student Support to receive a refund of the fees, after the Examinations Office told her refunding the fee was “not policy.” OUSA Student Support Centre Manager Matt Tucker said that this was the only case he remembers that Student Support have had to deal with regarding refunding a student for recount fees. He said he was unsure how students felt about having to pay a fee if the change was only small, but “personally if something were wrong, I would expect that students never have to pay for it.” Critic notes that the University would have earned $756 ($36 per student) last year from the 21 students who paid the University to fix the errors.
At Massey University, for $61.30 they offer a full remark and recount of results. In 2013, there were 579 applications for a remark, with 69 of the grades changed (11.9 per cent). The higher number of applications is likely to be due to the 32,500 students who are enrolled, in comparison to the approximately 21,000 enrolled at Otago. The higher percentage of changed grades is most likely a result of the papers actually being “carefully remarked followed by a recalculation,” said a Massey spokesperson, instead of just a recount as is the case at Otago. In 2012, there were 630 applications for a remark, with 102 of the grades changed (16.2 per cent).

Canterbury University students may apply in writing for a reconsideration of a final grade, which consists of a remark and recount of the final script. The $60 fee will be refunded if the application results in a change of grade. In 2013, 31 of the 188 applications resulted in a change of mark (16.5 per cent). In 2012, 48 of the 239 applications were changed (20 per cent).

Auckland University examination scripts are also not remarked; a recount for $55 is the only offer and involves the same process as at Otago. Auckland University will refund students if the recount results in a change. Students may have their original exam script returned to them, but once students have seen their exam, there will be “no further consideration of exam marks.”

Lincoln University offers both the option of a recount or a reconsideration, which involves a thorough re-marking of the examination script as well as a recount. They charge $50 for a recount or $120 for reconsideration; a full refund is offered should results change.

Victoria University introduced a new policy this year. Prior to 2014, they charged $41 per script, refunded if there was an upward adjustment to the mark. There are now no fees associated with these requests, and they offer a “careful re-marking of the student’s performance in the examination,” as well as a recount, should students apply. Even if it is concluded after reconsideration that a lower grade should have been awarded, the first grade determined for the student will remain.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic and International at the University of Otago, Professor Vernon Squire, explained the reason for not offering a remark of exams: “The University recognises that the marking of examinations, and particularly of short answer and essay question formats, requires the exercise of judgement by the marker. Remarking an examination does not remove the need for such judgement, and so a second mark does not in some way represent a truer or more objective measure of the quality of a student’s work.”

He explained that the University has set assessment monitoring and moderation processes and that they take the “examination assessment and the need to ensure fair marking of examinations extremely seriously.”

“Human error happens,” said Squire, and, yes, it is unlikely any university can completely avoid mistakes occurring. Regarding the cost imposed on students, Squire believed “either way, it results in a cost to add up the numbers again,” so, he said, “Who should be paying that cost?”

Squire went on to compare paying for a recount with paying for the servicing of an electronic device: “Whether there is a fault or not, you still have to pay the $90.” As in any industry, however, if a fault is acknowledged within a reasonable timeframe, the consumer should not, and ordinarily does not, pay for the mistake.
Similarly, it should be standard practice to refund students if it is found that they received an incorrect mark, particularly when they are already paying upwards of $700 for the paper.
This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2014.
Posted 6:52pm Sunday 13th July 2014 by Josie Cochrane.