Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 15:28 UK

Students poised for exam results

By Seonag MacKinnon
Education correspondent, BBC Scotland

Exam results
Thousands of pupils will receive their results on Tuesday

Tens of thousands of Scottish students are preparing to receive their exam results on Tuesday.

About 150,000 candidates will learn how they did in their Highers, Standard Grades, Intermediates and Advanced Highers.

Scotland's exam body, the SQA, is hoping there will be no problems with the delivery of results and says it has worked hard to put in place a more reliable service.

Last year a new online results service caused widespread delay and distress. That has been scrapped - but there is already a teething problem with the new system.

On Friday, we revealed that this year thousands of students will not be able to receive their results by text message or e-mail as planned.

Candidates no longer have to log on to the SQA computer on results day so there's less chance of the website crashing

Around 25,000 registered for this new alternative to waiting hours for a letter to come through the door.

But 4,000 have missed the deadline to activate the electronic service which will send out messages between 0800 and 0900 BST on Tuesday.

Candidates had been asked to sign on to the SQA computer by mid-July to type in a pin code and choose a password.

SQA officials reminded candidates on its website and with large adverts in town centres and at large music events like T in the Park.

But still one in six did not meet the deadline.

This came as a disappointment to the exam body, which had aimed to create a system which had less chance of going awry.

Text messages

Candidates no longer have to log on to the SQA computer on results day so there's less chance of the website crashing.

When they logged on a few weeks in advance to submit the pin and choose a password, it was an operation similar to the long-established method customers go through to activate a bank account.

And the electronic results are in the form of text messages and e-mails, a form with which young people are very familiar.

The SQA expects phone calls from candidates baffled that no electronic message has come through.

But it is unlikely they will receive the flood of calls they received last year from some of the 34,000 who had registered to receive results directly from the SQA website.

At 1200 BST just 6,000 had managed to log on. The rest spent several frustrating hours trying for access. Many angry pupils and their parents rang BBC Scotland to highlight the problem.

Incorrect results

Late in the day the SQA admitted it had missed out an 's' in the website address it had sent out to 34,000 candidates.

It also emerged that 30 candidates had potential access to the results of others because the SQA computer merged e-mail messages dispatched at the same time.

Candidates were able to learn their results the following day when the postman called.

But the electronic chaos the previous day tarnished the reputation of an exam body which is widely seen to have worked hard to recover from the fiasco in 2000. That year, because of management and computer failure, thousands of candidates received late or incorrect results.

The SQA has been encouraging education leaders to consider allowing more and more pupils to sit exams online in future.

For that to happen it may have to leave them with the impression it is a systematically reliable handler of electronic information.


SEE ALSO
Thousands miss exam alert chance
01 Aug 08 |  Scotland
Results body admits login mix-up
10 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Missing 's' means results stress
07 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Higher results 'better than 2006'
06 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Results lessons 'must be learned'
06 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Results hit by internet problems
06 Aug 07 |  Scotland

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