Graded exams are awarded at distinction, merit and pass levels. Candidates who are successful receive a certificate and, usually, a report including a breakdown of their marks. The examinations consist solely of an external assessment, conducted in controlled conditions on one occasion only. Examiners arrive at a result by judging each component from the following three perspectives:
- The general standard of achievement expected at the grade attempted and articulated by the repertoire
- The assessment criteria and related attainment descriptors
- The attainment bands applied to the specific grade attempted (i.e. distinction, merit, pass or below pass). Marks indicate low, mid or high achievement in each category.
The examiner assesses the candidate according to the criteria of a specific grade. Whilst the syllabus is cumulative and skills from earlier grades are integral to the candidate’s performance, in order to ensure reliability the examiner does not examine skills other than those required for the grade entered. Candidates are not awarded a pass at a lower grade in the event of a failure at a higher grade.
Awarding Organisations monitor examiners for consistency of assessment judgments, understanding of assessment criteria, application of attainment bands, and the conduct of unseen tests. All examiners take part in training and standardisation activities during which marks, grades, comments (where applicable) and results are analysed, compared and discussed in detail. The outcome of this kind of session is a greater reliability of marking across the panel. These events also provide a good opportunity to share working practices.