Re-reading & Retention of Examinations


When a dispute over a grade cannot be resolved through the recommended channel of discussion with the instructor and graduate unit chair, the SGS Vice-Dean, Students and/or the Graduate Academic Appeals Board may then invoke these procedures subject to a written agreement with the student. This process, then, is an alternative only when existing graduate unit appeal procedures have been exhausted, and it is subject to the usual deadline for formal appeal (cf. SGS Calendar, General Regulations, Appeals).

The task of an external reviewer is not to address or revise the entire grading practices of a graduate unit. Rather, the context in which the guidelines would be applied is case specific. In the event that a graduate student challenges a grade and is unsatisfied with the result of the graduate unit appeal, and should the decision be made to utilize the procedures, the external reviewer’s function is only to ensure that the graduate unit grading practices have been consistently applied in the individual case at hand.

It is acknowledged that full implementation of the guidelines will entail a measure of administrative difficulty, and for this reason, it is the intention of the SGS that their use be discretionary and intermittent, to be considered only when the dispute has reached the level of the SGS Vice-Dean. These guidelines provide a judicious and equitable framework for use by the SGS when it is required to enter into the appeal process. 


The purpose of re-reading an examination is to obtain an independent reassessment of the work in order to determine:

  • if the original grade assigned by the examiners and accepted by the graduate unit is fair relative to the grades assigned to work written by other students in the examination; and
  • if the original grade represents a satisfactory level of performance in the context of the SGS policy on grading practice and the range of grades therein.
  • It is not the purpose of the reassessment to evaluate the original marking scheme or to revise the grades of the examinations written by other students.

Ensuring Independence

To ensure independence the following principles must be applied:

  • The students and examiner involved in the original evaluation must remain anonymous with respect to the rereading process.
  • As much as possible, the identity of the examination in question must not be revealed to the reader; however, the nature of the problem may need to be revealed to the reader.
  • The identity of the reader must not be disclosed to any of the parties in the dispute.
  • The administration of the rereading procedure must be independent of the parties in the dispute.

Procedures For Re-reading The Examination

Administration of the Procedures

These procedures will be overseen by the SGS Vice-Dean, Students.

Binding Nature of the Agreement

Before enacting these procedures, the SGS Vice-Dean, Students will obtain from the chair or director of the graduate unit, the original examiner and the appellant (graduate student) a written agreement to abide by the grade assigned by the external reader of the examination. Thus the grade assigned by the external reader to the examination will stand as the official grade for the examination.

Selection of an External Reader

The graduate chair/director and the instructor (or the chair of the examiners) for whom the examination was written will each submit in writing to the SGS Vice-Dean, Students four names and addresses of individuals they believe are qualified to re-evaluate the examination.

The SGS Vice-Dean, Students will allow the graduate chair/director, the instructor (or the chair of the examiners) and the student to remove from the list of eight names any name of a person believed to be unsuitable. However, if more than four names are deleted in total, additional names will be sought. From the list of names, the SGS Vice-Dean, Students will select an external reader.

The SGS Vice-Dean, Students will write to the selected external reader and, without conveying more information than is necessary; e.g., the request to reread three examinations, assign grades to them relative to several others, and the remuneration for doing the job, determine the reader’s willingness to reread the examination.

If the SGS Vice-Dean, Students exhausts the list of acceptable names, the first four steps will be repeated.

Material to be Sent to the External Reader

  • Clean copy of the examination or question paper.
  • Clean copies of three examinations as follows:
    • the examination in question,
    • an examination graded comparably with the one in question,
    • an examination graded as a clear pass in the examination.
    • Note: A clean copy of an examination is a facsimile of the original work having markings, grades, and comments by anyone other than the author of the work deleted. An opportunity will be provided to all parties to check the facsimile.
  • Copies of the other papers (excluding those listed above) from the same examination as originally marked by the examiners, which will serve as a framework of grades assigned to the papers in the examination. The examinations should represent the range of grades that were assigned.
  • The marking scheme used by the examiner in grading the examination in question.
  • A copy of the University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy.
  • A copy of the graduate unit rubric of (outline of fields for) the examination.

Instructions to the External Reader

When the materials have been assembled, they will be sent to the external reader, who has agreed to serve, under a covering letter signed by the SGS Vice-Dean, Students. The letter will include the following information:

  • a list of the material enclosed
  • a list of the various reasons why the examination may need to be reread in a graduate unit
  • instruction to read the three clean examinations and assign to each a grade based on the framework of grades already assigned to the other examinations and using the marking scheme provided
  • instruction to return all the materials, with the grades and any justification for them written on the three examinations, to the SGS Vice-Dean, Students.
  • a statement of the importance of retaining anonymity and “arm’s length” distance from the graduate unit for the rereading process to be impartial and independent
  • a statement of remuneration
  • a statement of intent that the reader’s name will not be revealed to either the graduate unit or the students
  • a statement that the grades and their justifications may be communicated to interested parties used as seen fit by them

Courtesy to Other Students

Whenever possible, the SGS Vice-Dean, Students will advise the students whose examinations are being used for providing the framework of grades in the examination that their examinations are being so used and that their grades will not be altered nor their names revealed.

Reporting the Results of the Reassessment

The SGS Vice-Dean, Students will advise the graduate chair/director, the examiner, the appellant, and when appropriate, the Graduate Academic Appeals Board of the grades assigned to the student’s examination by the external reader and any justification for the grades, including any breakdown of the grade assigned. No information will be given as to the grades assigned to the other two examinations. Nor will commentary by the external reader as to anything but the grade assigned to the examination in question be conveyed to the parties in the dispute.

Financial Responsibility

The School of Graduate Studies will be responsible for negotiating the external reader’s stipend. Costs of preparing the materials for the external reader will be shared between the graduate unit and the appellant.

Retention of Examinations

Written examinations shall be retained by the instructor/graduate unit for one year (12 months) following the reporting of the grades. This is the retention period under FIPPA. Students have four months to review their answers after the reporting of grades. However, examinations involved in an appeal must be retained until the matter has been resolved or until appeal deadlines have lapsed.