Guide to the Marking and Grading Process of Exam Papers

* This video is made by CIE and can be found on Vimeo. Click on the Vimeo logo at the bottom right to watch it on Vimeo. If the video isn’t playing for you, please read below.

How CIE marks the exam scripts?

Most of the exam scripts are scanned and marked by the examiners on their computer. Other exam scripts are marked manually on paper. For the multiple choice component, the computer automatically marks the papers.

Who marks the exam scripts?

Cambridge examiners are composed of teachers and subject experts. Their task is to mark the exam scripts at the same standard. This means all the examiners mark according to the mark scheme and they all apply the mark scheme in the same way.

How does the CIE standardise the marking?

A team of experienced senior examiners mark sample set of exam scripts based on the mark scheme. They then agree to the marks. These same exam scripts set the standard and will be used by the other examiners to practice marking. This is to make sure that all examiners understand how to mark the same way. For the final part of calibration, they mark another set of scripts as a test. They then begin to start marking all other papers.

The senior examiners review all the markings of every examiner. This is to ensure that they are all marked correctly. If an examiner fails to mark consistently, another examiner remarks the scripts.

How do they turn mark into grade?

CIE uses grade boundaries to convert marks into grades. The grade boundaries are the minimum mark needed to achieve a grade. It considers statistical evidence and expert judgment to agree to grade boundary. It also accounts the slight difference in the level of difficulty every year.

When the grade boundaries are set, it is applied to marks for grading. The senior examiners carry out final checks on the markings and the results are then sent to the schools.

How to convert component marks into syllabus grade?

From Raw Mark to Syllabus Grade Chart

Step 1: Find the component?s raw mark

The raw mark is the sum of all the total marks achieved in that component.

The mark found on the candidate?s completed examination script is the raw mark. For example in Syllabus 0620, the candidate?s raw mark in Component 41 is 20 out of the 80 total marks available.

Finding Raw Mark

Step 2: Adjust raw mark

Raw marks are adjusted to ensure fairness and equality. It can be adjusted due to scaling, granting of special consideration or both. Scaling is applied to ensure consistency across the marking process and the different examiners. Special consideration is granted if CIE agrees to an earlier formal request from a Centre. Usually, there is no need to adjust marks and the mark stays as raw mark.

For example, the candidate?s component 41 raw mark of 20 is adjusted to 21 to reflect the fairness and consistency of marking between examiners.

Adjust Raw Mark

Step 3: Find the component grade

Compare the component’s raw mark with the component’s grade thresholds. The component grade can be found on the subject syllabus? Grade Threshold.

For example, the candidate?s component 41 adjusted mark is 21, its component grade falls under the grade D threshold.

Finding the Component Grade

Step 4: Calculate final mark and syllabus total

Calculate the final mark by multiplying each component’s mark by its weighting
factor. Weighting factor is the value assigned by CIE to indicate the level of importance of each component. The component weighting factors can be found at

Calculate the syllabus total by adding all final marks together. Round up syllabus totals that end in 0.5 to the nearest whole number.

For example, the candidate?s component 41 adjusted mark (21) is multiplied by the component?s weighing factor which in this case is 1.25. This will lead to the candidate?s component 41 final mark of 21 x 1.25 = 26.25.

Weighting Factor

Multiplying the Component Weighting Factor

Consequently, when all the component?s final mark is computed, the candidate?s syllabus total can be calculated by adding it. For example, the candidate?s final marks for each component are 28.5, 26.25 and 20 for Components 21, 41 and 61 respectively. The sum of all of these component marks totals to 74.75. It is then rounded off to the nearest whole number that is 75.

Adding Components Final Marks for Syllabus Total

Step 5: Find the syllabus grade

Compare the syllabus total to the overall grade threshold. Make sure that the option code is correct. As the grade thresholds for different options may not be the same.

For example, if the candidate took the combination of Components 21, 41, and 61, the syllabus grade should be compared to Option CX grade threshold. As such if the candidate’s syllabus total is 75, it falls under the Grade D threshold because Grade D threshold are for 71 marks and above. The Grade C threshold is for marks that are 84 and above.

Finding the Syllabus Grade

* All info taken from CIE.

51 Replies to “Guide to the Marking and Grading Process of Exam Papers”

  1. I am doing my geography paper 2 next week ان شاء الله
    I personally hate geography and don’t think i will ever get along with it
    My paper 2 is basically map skills. Can you give me some advices as i am not looking forward to having an A on my certificate. Thanks a lot . I appreciate all your efforts.
    Wish me all the best

    • Hello Meme,

      Here are some Geography Paper 2 Tips:

      -This paper is testing a range of skills. Try to be as accurate as you can with measuring and plotting. Take your time, take care and always use a ruler to complete graphs and measure straight line distances.

      -Many questions ask you to ‘use the evidence’ in the resources provided such as the maps, photographs and graphs. You must make sure that you do so rather than using your background knowledge.

      – Practise basic map skills, for example six-figure grid references. Candidates sometimes get the third and sixth figures confused. Make sure you give the reference for the position of the symbol rather than the name of the place.

      -If you are asked to measure a distance it is worth using the linear scale below the map and a straight edged piece of paper. Look carefully at what units you need to use, whether you should answer to the nearest kilometre or in metres. Make sure you always give the units in your answer rather than just writing down the number.

  2. Hi IGCSE Team,
    Can I know how are the final marks are converted into percentage form? For example the final mark is 153 and it is an a*.

    • Hi Rao,

      The percentage uniform mark is not the same as the actual total mark that the candidate achieves on the syllabus. This is because the percentage uniform mark depends on both the actual total mark for the syllabus and the position of the grade thresholds (which may vary from one exam series to another and from one syllabus to another). The percentage uniform mark is also different from the actual mark because it is always calculated out of 100.

      For example, a student who gets the minimum mark necessary for a Grade A* obtains a percentage uniform mark of 90. A student who gets a mark halfway between the Grade D threshold and Grade C threshold achieves a percentage uniform mark of 55.

      It is a point on a common scale for all syllabuses to show whether the candidate’s performance is close to the top, middle or bottom of the grade.

  3. Hi IGCSE team,
    I just finished an exam and realized that I accidentally left a pen mark on the gray area in the middle of the answer booklet that says DO NOT WRITE HERE. Will that be a problem? Such as when they scan it for marking?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Janet,

      We suggest you not to worry about this as it is done. Please concentrate in the rest of your exams.

    • exam on 13th of may
      I guess you mean ICT paper1
      Mmmmm. Dont worry about the mark .. but i’d like to ask how was it.
      Am i the only one saying it was hard….hh

  4. I recently attempted my igcse examinations in the February-March series.In my economics exam (0455/22) I used a continuation booklet to write the answer for a whole question and sub questions.However, I did not mention on my question paper that the whole of question 5 was attempted on the continuation booklet.Still, I secured the booklet to my answer booklet as was supposed to be done.So, will my answer still be marked?

    • Hi James,

      Any blank pages or answer booklets that are used by a candidate in the examinations are scanned and marked as long as you properly label it.

  5. I wrote below and some of my words in English went out of the dotted line or below dotted line, so is it possible to get marks for that. it happened due to correction with pen of wrong answer on the dotted lines
    as I didnt have space for writing in dotted lines, I had to wrote below or beside dotted lines

    my handwriting is also bad so is it possible too???
    I would like the answers to be emailed

    • Hello there,

      Most of the exam scripts are scanned and marked by the examiners in their computer. There is no penalty for going beyond the lines, however, you are risking your answers not fitting into the scanned screen. If this happens, you will lose marks as the examiners won’t be able to see your full answers.

      Alternatively, you may write on the blank pages provided within the answer sheet. Any blank pages that are used by a candidate in the examinations are scanned and marked as long as you properly label it.

  6. Are the papers strictly marked?
    and can you tell me where can I find papers that the actual examiners marked other students paper so I can see how they mark the paper accordingly to the mark scheme

    please and thank you!

    • Hi Eihab,

      Please kindly get help from your teacher on this. If your school is a registered Cambridge School, they could help you.

  7. I have huge handwriting which caused me to write below the dotted lines in chemistry p4. Are the examiners going to mark that?

    • Hi Sameen,

      We strongly suggest for you not to go below the dotted lines. There is no penalty for going beyond the lines, however, you are risking your answers not fitting into the scanned screen. If this happens, you will lose marks as the examiners won’t be able to see your full answers.

    • Hello Rose,

      We can’t speculate that. You will have to refer to the grade threshold. Every year, the exam questions have slight differences on the level of difficulty. In order to provide equivalent A* achieving chance, the threshold is used to determine the grades for that year.

      A grade threshold is the minimum number of marks that a candidate needs to obtain a particular grade in a paper or in a subject. These thresholds are decided after each examination has been taken and marked. The aim in each year (or examination series) is to set each threshold in just the right place to ensure that it is no more difficult and no less difficult to obtain that grade than it was in the previous year.

  8. I was wondering that in biology paper 6, when i was answering planning for investigation, i missed one sentence so i draw arrow and write it at the end on the given line. i also write numbers in each sentences. is it okay?

    • Hello Alice,

      If you properly labelled your answer (as long as it is within the space provided) then the examiner would be able to follow it.

  9. I have a question. What would happen if I fail one component but do well in the other
    will I pass or fail?

    • Hello Shiven,

      We are sorry that we don’t quite grasp your question. If we guessed your question correctly, below is our answer.

      Most of the IGCSE exams are externally assessed. On the other hand, courseworks are internally assessed/externally moderated.

  10. Hello CAIE tean,
    I have few queries regarding grade threshold and weighting factor
    Is the grade threshold for any syllabus is set before the examination or after it, do it range differ lot form subject to subject,
    is the weighting factor set by CAIE for specific subject is fix or do it reviewed each year?
    finally, the adjustment marks given by the examiner to a candidate is a fixed value or in a range, if so what the the maximum marks which can be awarded

    • Hi Muhammed,

      First of all, we are not CAIE. But to answer your question, the thresholds are decided after each examination has been taken and marked. The aim in each year (or examination series) is to set each threshold in just the right place to ensure that it is no more difficult and no less difficult to obtain that grade than it was in the previous year.

      Furthermore, CAIE releases syllabus component weighting factors every year. Lastly, raw mark may be adjusted as the result of scaling, the granting of special consideration or both. Usually there is no need to adjust marks, so the adjusted mark is often the same as the raw mark. Scaling is applied to ensure consistency across the marking process and the different examiners used. For example, if the candidate’s raw mark is 18, the mark is adjusted to 19 to bring the mark in line with all other marking of the same paper; no special consideration sought or granted.

      If you wish to enquire about the weighting factors and adjustment marks in details, please kindly write to CAIE.

  11. Hi,
    If i get the answer correctly in Mathematics but the working is slightly different from the mark scheme, can I still get a full marks in that question?

    • Hello Cassie,

      The mark scheme does not include all possible methods, so if you use a method not included in the mark scheme but it is accurate and relevant, then the examiner will still award marks for the appropriate parts of the working – unless the questions asks you to use a specific method.

  12. Hello IGCSE Centre,
    My friend have mistakenly used correction tape on all of her answer scripts in the exam. May I know how will that affects her results ?

    • Hello JCQ,

      The answer papers may be scanned to allow online marking by examiners and correction fluid or tape can cause issues when scanning. The use of erasable pen during writing examinations often leaves smudges, making papers harder to read. Although there are no automatic deductions, it may cause you to lose marks because the examiner won?t be able to see your full answers.

      Alternatively, please kindly write to the exam board, CIE, about this matter. Only the exam board, or the exam officer in your school is able to give this confirmation to you.

  13. I am applying for 2019 feb-march exams ,so i want to know on which topic should i focus in chemistry,biology,physics ,business studies and maths .
    And also in India which question paper does student write p22,42,62?
    Please help me with my concern

  14. what if I get a mark of 75 in my results saying it is a B on the results sheet but according to the grade boundaries 75 is an A*

    • Hello,

      The statement of results shows your percentile not your mark. The numbers shown in a bracket is the percentage uniform mark (PUM). It corresponds to the grades available (A*, A, B, C etc.) and gives students additional information about their performance. They show students whether they are in the middle of a grade or near the top or bottom.

    • Hi Victor,

      The instruction clearly states ?Do not write in any bar codes? The computer may not be able to scan your paper.

  15. Hi,
    How are the Grade Thresholds made for an exam? I gave Paper 62 for International Mathematics (0607) and I found it extremely challenging and difficult. Some of my peers left the question paper blank! So I wanted to enquire whether or not the grade boundaries will drop? If they will plummet, then by how much?

  16. I am giving my exams privately. So how can i see the timetable of may june. and the threshold of 2017 oct nov.

  17. if i pass one paper lets just say like evm has 3 papers ok. i failed 1 paper but the other 2 papers went good and the marks is above the thresholds so i will i pass when the percentage is calculated or will i fail. one more question do they calculate the marks from the papers individually or combining all the papers

    • Hi Kohls,

      Each subject has different component combinations. The marking and grade threshold is being calculated as the article stipulated above.

      You may take any sample marks that you have from school, follow the above steps, and work out your final total marks and grade.

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