By Ian Dunt

Students who received unexpectedly bad A-level results can use data protection laws to view the examiner's comments, officials have said.

The Information Commissioner's Office told students the Data Protection Act also allows them to see a breakdown of their overall mark.

"Having access to information may not lead to their grades being altered but it could help them make decisions that impact on their future, such as deciding to re-sit an exam or pursue a particular subject at college or university," said David Smith, deputy commissioner for data protection.

"This right doesn't just apply to A-level exams. Students sitting GCSEs, Scottish Highers and degree examinations can also request to see their information. If examination bodies fail in their legal duty to respond then students can bring a complaint to the ICO and we will look into it."

The Data Protection Act allows individuals to see what information organisations hold about them.

Once a request is received an organisation generally has 40 days to respond. In the case of exam results, exam bodies must respond within 40 days from the date the results were published or within five months of the request being received – whichever of the two is the earliest.