Students have a right to complain about their exam grade. This right and the legal procedures that surround it are stipulated in the Ministerial Order on University Examinations and Grading (the Examination Order), part 7.

You will find it here: Rules and regulations

Students may complain about two different kinds of issues:

Academic issues - typically the assessment or the basis for examination (e.g. the assessment of the student's exam performance or the link between exam questions and course syllabus)

Legal issues - typically irregularities during the exam (e.g. technical problems)

ITU has the decision-making authority

Whether the complaint deals with academic or legal issues, it is ITU who makes the decision.

If the complaint concerns academic issues, ITU's decision will be based on the assessors' opinion and the complainant's opinion. Head of Programme will also be asked to comment on the case.

If the complaint concerns legal issues, the assessors' will only be involved, if it is considered relevant for the decision-making.

Your role as examiner

If a student complains about one of your exams, you and the external examiner will be asked to account for the assessment, the basis for the assessment or whatever the complaint concerns. You will normally be given 2 weeks to give a written account and send it to Student Affairs and Pogrammes.

In order to account for the assessment, it is required that you keep notes from all exams for at least one year and until any appeal procedure has been completed.

The outcome of an exam complaint

In the Examination Order part 7, section 34, the possible outcomes of an exam complaint are described.

34.-(1) In its decision, which must be in writing and reasoned, the university may decide

1) to make an offer for a new assessment (re-assessment); however, not in oral exams;

2) to make an offer for a new examination (re-exam) or

3) not to find in favour of the complainant.

(2) The university must notify the complainant and the assessors, cf. section 33(2), of the decision as soon as possible. Where the university decides to make an offer for re-assessment or re-exam, the complainant must be informed that such re-assessment or re-exam may result in a lower grade.

If the outcome of the complaint is that the complainant is offered a re-assessment or a re-exam, the complainant has two weeks to accept or reject the offer.

If a re-assessment or re-exam is offered, the new assessment will always be made by new examiners.

Appeal of decision

If ITU does not decide in favour of the complainant, the decision may be appealed to a board of appeals set up by the university (academic issues) or to the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation (legal issues).

As a main rule a new decision made by these two authorities cannot be appealed, unless legal rules have been violated during the process.

Can exam complaints be prevented?

All exam complaints cannot be prevented, as a good deal of them are quite simply concerned with a different view of the assessment and the grade given. It is therefore very likely that you will get involved in a complaint case at some point in your career as examiner.

Still, with the most typical content of exam complaints as one's starting point, a few good tips are worth mentioning here:

Tips to avoid exam complaints

Make a good course description with precise and measurable intended learning outcomes.
Prepare the students for the exam by describing in detail what is going to happen. This decription could for instance state:
  • if you or the student is supposed to say something first
  • if there will be time - and how much - for an initial presentation of exam paper or synopsis
  • if the written work in a combined oral/written exam is considered the very basis for the assessment or rather an element ranked alongside the course syllabus (be very aware of this distinction when employing the D exam form)
  • what it is particularly important to demonstrate at the exam to have a good assessment etc.etc.
Allways base the assessment and the following feedback to the student on the degree of fulfillment of intended learning outcomes. Never relate the student's performance to other students' performance, but only to the intended learning outcomes.
Never include the student's general performance during the semester in the assessment, as it is only the exam performance that counts.
Be as thorough when giving feedback to the student as when assessing the exam performance.
Be prepared to state and elaborate on the reasons for the grade given, should the student ask for it after the exam.The student is not entitled to further explanation, but see it as good service and a preventive act that might spare your more effort later on.

What students complain about at ITU

The assessment itself

The majority of exam complaints at ITU concern the assessment and grading of the student's exam performance.

Students are generally aware that the assessment is based on the degree of fullfilment of intended learning outcomes and employ them in their argumentation. However, some students see the intented learning outcomes as a very simple set of checkpoints and disregard the extent to which they are actually met. Be aware of this when dealing with complaints of this kind.

Irregularities during exam

A smaller part of the exam complaints at ITU concern irregularities during the exam.

Examples of such irregularities could be:

  • Exceptional noise during the exam
  • Technical breakdowns during the exam
  • Confusion with regards to allowed aids at written exam
  • Time waste and confusion due to error in exam questions

Examiners' behavior at oral exam

An even smaller part of the exam complaints at ITU concern the examiner's behavior at the oral exam.

Typically what might have been considered a humorous remark by the examiners is seen as an act of disdain by the student.

Moreover, non-verbal gestures showing lack of interest or scepticism during presentation are being mentioned as discomfort causing element by the exam complainants from time to time.