Exam records

Examination records and performance and course assessment

Guide 2 - Exam records

1. Introduction

Examination scripts, work assessments and comments on those papers by examiners, examination marks and final results constitute personal data and, from October 2001, any of these in written/printed format as well as computer records are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DP Act98) and, in particular, the Subject Access Rights contained within that Act.

2. Examination scripts

Under the DP Act98 Data Subjects have no right of access to their scripts, once submitted to their examiners, at any time. The College is under no obligation, therefore, to make available either the actual scripts or copies of them.

3. Examiners' comments/ assessments

Data Subjects do have a right of access to the written comments made by examiners, whether internal or external, on or about students' examination scripts or written work assessments. These have to be made available in a meaningful and intelligible form, hence examiners should consider how best this can be achieved. Appropriate terminology and use of language must also be taken into consideration when appending such comments. Codifying these comments does not absolve them from being made available when requested. However, students may formally apply for Subject Access before the results have been announced, the comments do not have to be made available until 40 days after the declaration of the results or 5 months after the receipt of a written Subject Access request by the College Data Protection Officer and payment of the appropriate fee, whichever is the earlier.

4. Examination marks

The application of the law to the availability of marks is the same as that for examiners' comments with the same time scale applying, although there is nothing to prevent the College having an open policy on this issue and make them freely available without students having to use the Subject Access Request procedure and the payment of a fee.

5. Examination board minutes and related documentation

Minutes of Examination Boards that contain discussion about Data Subjects will be liable to Subject Access where the candidates are named, or referred to by identifiers from which candidates may be identified (e.g. PINs), unless that data cannot be disclosed without additionally disclosing personal data about a third party. That data may still be disclosed if the third party consents to the disclosure or there are special circumstances which justify the disclosure anyway.

The same rights of access for the Data Subject apply to any other committee convened to discuss evidence supplied by candidates for reduced performance or non-performance in examinations.

6. Disclosure of results

Examination results constitute personal data and publication of results on notice boards, in newspapers or on the internet, for example, entails disclosure of personal data. Whereas obtaining explicit consent for such a disclosure is not required, candidates should be informed of the mechanisms by which results will be published and by which they can effectively exercise their right to object to them being disclosed in all or any media. College authorities may wish to circumvent such a process by publishing the results with identifiers instead of candidates' names.

The privacy rights of the Data Subject should also be taken into consideration when handing back assessed material to students in a group, e.g. a seminar. The permission to discuss individual results in the group should be obtained before they are made known to the group collectively.