Clonmel's Alia Sheikh discovered that two of her Leaving Certificate examination papers had been incorrectly marked
A Clonmel student who discovered that two of her Leaving Certificate examination papers had been incorrectly marked has urged other students to follow her example and get papers re-checked if they think they have been unfairly treated.
Alia Sheikh received five H1s and two H2s, equating to 613 points in her Leaving, enough to pursue her chosen career in medicine.
“A form accompanying the results allowed for the reviewing of marked scripts in the school. Although happy with my grades, I wanted to avail of the opportunity to view my scripts and to analyse where I had been penalised and why," says Alia as she embarked on a lengthy process that eventually bore fruit, bringing her final points total to 625.
And her advice to student now preparing for their Leaving Cert? “If you aren’t satisfied with your grade but know that you worked hard and knew what you were doing when you tackled the questions on your exam, then keep fighting for the grade you feel you deserve”.
Alia said that after viewing her own scripts, she found that in Maths she had received 89%, and that her German paper had been awarded 86%.
“With Maths, I could immediately spot about three mistakenly deducted marks, bringing my percentage up to 89.9. I needed literally one more mark to secure me a H1, which would have awarded me the total 625.
“With German, it was difficult to know where I stood percentage-wise with the subject as a whole, since the only part of my exam available to me was the written, not the oral.
“It was later that I found that under the GDPR laws, results from the oral exam could also now be obtained."
Alia continues: “Not knowing one’s exact mark in a subject can prove difficult when it comes to deciding whether to appeal or not, as a remarking can go either way.
“But viewing my German script with my grinds’ teacher we were equally convinced that I had marks deducted for many answers which were, by all accounts, perfectly acceptable.
“We found many questions in which the discrepancies between my answers and those provided in the marking scheme were very obviously not grave enough to penalise me, yet penalised I was, as indeed were unknown numbers of students across the country.
“By the end of the reviewing period, I had ample evidence that the grades I had been awarded were not those I deserved. I decided to go ahead and appeal the grades I had received in both subjects.
“This meant that my scripts would be sent to be re-marked by SEC examiners, the fee for which was €40 per subject. Around the beginning of October, after approximately one month’s/six weeks’ wait, the results of this appeal were sent to the school, and I was disappointed to find that neither grade had been changed."
But Alia was not finished yet in her pursuit of justice. She was now able to appeal to independent scrutineers. She filled out the necessary forms and also discovered that the results of oral examinations can now be obtained.
And five weeks later she received the results of all her endeavours.
“Although my Maths script had been previously marked by three examiners and my German script by two, the Chief Examiner found that errors had been made in marking every single time.
“Having reassessed my scripts alongside the CV2 form I had submitted, my marks in both subjects were brought up, and my grades in both subjects were then upgraded. I now had seven H1s, which equates to the full 625.
“As happy as I was at this news, it came as quite a shock to me that even after five examiners, it took the Chief Examiners to award me with the grades I had deserved”.
And she continued - “I think back to those long days in June, after each and every paper sat, handing those precious script books over to the superintendent with a shaky sigh and a sweaty hand; it was an almost necessary comfort, I think, to put our faith in those faceless examiners, to assume that our proverbial blood, sweat and tears would be treated with deference; appraised justly and fairly – though I see now that comfort was inevitably naïve."
Alia adds that she doesn't mean to be too critical of the examiners but to alert Leaving Cert students to the measures that now exist when it comes to challenging their final grades.
Alia says that the crux of her advice to all Leaving Cert students would be to take charge, not only of their studies but also of their entitlements as a student.
“Find out all the information there is to find out before you begin your exams. Be aware of the different protocols that exist following the release of results.
“If you aren’t satisfied with your grade but know that you worked hard and knew what you were doing when you tackled the questions on your exam, then keep fighting for the grade you feel you deserve."
And Alia continues: “Of course, it goes without saying that the appeals process shouldn’t be used as a vehicle for bartering for higher grades, but to rectify unfair dismissal of honest work.
“I would advise all students to keep pushing forward with their scripts until they have a satisfactory answer. Because otherwise you may end up suffering due to a mistake you never made to begin with.
“I am currently taking a gap year as I realise that once studies begin again, to have time will become a foreign concept and the opportunities to pursue hobbies and interests will become numbered.
“At present, I am participating in voluntary community work. I am also utilising my time to go traveling and to practice driving.
“As sixth year students now edge closer to their mocks, and closer yet to the final exams in June, I wish them the very best of luck in all their studies.
“Remember to eat well, sleep well and to get some exercise. But most importantly, remember that hard work always pays off."