Marking exam papers

I have been a marker for many years. My house has looked like some sort of delivery depot with piles of grey bags filled with test papers from around the country stacked up in almost every available corner.

I hate to admit it but I actually quite enjoy the checking them papers and then steadily working my way through them watching the grey bags get ticks put on the outside and then gradually being allowed to put the grey bags into blue bags ready to be returned. I even quite enjoy the marking of the papers although there is always the odd question  that you get fed up of working out whether the mark should be given.

When I first decided that I needed to do earn money and thought that marking would be a good thing I thought maths would be the easy option. Maths is either right or wrong isn’t it – yes… sort of… normally… but… I couldn’t believe that I’d need a complete day in some far flung part of the country to learn to mark a paper but every year it takes a whole day.

The system has changed slightly over the years we have gone from having to send samples of marking off to team leaders, remarking papers that were within 3 marks of a grade boundary, adding up the totals and assigning the levels onto 3 coloured fan-fold NCR paper to having to input marks online and now, apparently marking the whole paper online.

As a teacher it was useful to see how another 300 children from around the country tackled questions, it was certainly a good opportunity to learn about exam techniques and what did and didn’t seem to work. After being a marker for the first year I certainly learnt that some methods of recording calculations were better than others. Initially being a teacher and a marker was awkward – you used to get the paper before the tests had been taken. The opportunity to teach to the test was there. I couldn’t do it and used to plan my lessons in advance and stick to the timetable – It really pained me to be teaching something that I knew would not appear. Someone cottoned on and many years ago they changed it so that the papers aren’t seen by markers until after the tests are finished.

This year it has changed to marking on the computer I’m not sure that we will be marking whole papers – maybe just a set selection of questions but from more children. I can see how this will make marking faster as you will be tuned into the question. It may be more boring as you may not get the question with the funny answers – those ones that make you, inadvertently, chuckle. I also wonder how much easier it makes “maladministration” (cheating to you and me). People have reported where you could see that  papers had been changed as the pencil pressure was different imprints suddenly going through several pages or where the writing was different on one question to another. This will be trickier to see on a computer screen though I guess that it will be easy to see where a whole class all have identical working out for a particular question.

Hopefully this year there won’t be any maladministration, it is a real pity that head teachers are under such pressure that they feel the need to help the children get the grades that they feel that they deserve (or they need to keep Ofsted away). That is a whole different discussion point for a different day!

I am looking forward to marking again though; yes it takes up a chunk of holiday but I have always quite enjoyed seeing the pile of papers move from the unmarked to the marked pile, the relief when the last paper is gone and yes the money coming in. I am slightly apprehensive as to how the new online system will work but probably not as apprehensive as the children completing the papers. Not long now and it will be training day – I wonder how keen I’ll be after that!

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Marking exam papers

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