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Disappointed students can request examiners’ comments under data protection laws, says ICO

Students who want to know exactly what the examiner thought of their work can request to see this information under the Data Protection Act, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today, as hundreds of thousands of students receive their A-Level exams results.  

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Data Protection:

“We’ve all experienced the excitement and occasional disappointment that the exam season can bring. We’re using results day to remind students that they have a right under the Data Protection Act to see information about their results. Having access to information - such as a breakdown of their overall mark and examiners’ comments – may not lead to their grades being altered but it could help them make decisions that impact on their future, such as deciding to re-sit an exam or pursue a particular subject at college or university.” 

“This right doesn’t just apply to A-level exams. Students sitting GCSEs, Scottish Highers and degree examinations can also request to see their information. If examination bodies fail in their legal duty to respond then students can bring a complaint to the ICO and we will look into it.”

Under the Act, individuals have the right to request the information that an organisation holds about them – known as a subject access request. Once a request is received an organisation generally has 40 days to respond. In the case of exam results, exam bodies must respond within 40 days from the date the results were published or within five months of the request being received - whichever of the two is the earliest.

The ICO’s guidance – Individuals’ rights of access to examination records – also outlines how people can access more general information about college or university policies or procedures.

The ICO has also produced guidance for schools and universities, explaining their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act – including what actions they should take when receiving a subject access request.

Further information on today’s announcement can be found on our young people's pages.

Notes to Editors

1. The ICO upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

4. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter.

5. Contact our press office on 0303 123 9070 and at ico.gov.uk/press


Webinar 15th June 10am: Transport for Greater Manchester Deliver better citizen outcomes through accessible and useable data for all