UK students can request exam feedback under data laws

Students in the UK can use the data protection laws to receive often-withheld details of their exam results, the UK's data protection agency said today.

Students who complete exams, but receive no feedback from their examiners -- often their professors or lecturers -- can use the UK data protection laws to receive detailed explanations why certain marks were given.

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Many students complete exams without knowing exactly what they did right or wrong, making improvement difficult for future tests.

The UK's data protection agency -- the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) -- made these provisions available late last week, as hundreds of thousands of high school students complete crucial high school A-level exams.

Under the UK's Data Protection Act 1998, any students within the United Kingdom can receive detailed feedback for any examination -- including A-levels, GCSE, Scottish Highers and degree examinations at college and university.

Schools, colleges and universities have 40 days to respond from the date of the publication of results, or within five months of the students' request -- whichever is the earliest.

The Data Protection Act allows individuals to make requests to organisations to see what information or data is held about them.

Parents also have this provision -- to request on their child's behalf -- to put in a request for detailed examination marks. Schools, colleges and universities will treat must treat these requests as though they are from the student themselves.

Many students, not limited to the United Kingdom but further afield, do not receive adequate information about their test results. Unlike coursework, which is often heavily marked and given back to the student for self-improvement, exams receive a similar level of marking but are often unavailable for students.

The new provisions will allow many disappointed students in particular to gauge crucial exam feedback to appeal unexpected marks.

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