Exam marking

This year, in a bid to raise funds for our wedding next year, I applied to mark exams. I was offered a Physics paper (perfect) and, after preparing myself for endless hours of time lost to marking, here is what I’ve found out throughout the process:

  1. How to mark properly: When I learned that the training was going to take two hours online, I groaned inwardly. However, I learned LOTS throughout this session. The many different types of question, what good and poor question answers looked like, what it means to ‘ignore’ an answer, what it means to be underlined, in bold or in brackets. I’m not new to teaching, or marking papers in school but just this training alone was immensely helpful and will improve my practice in future.
  2. It makes you a better teacher. As I marked each question, it was clear to see which responses were common amongst students and, most importantly, commonly incorrect. Certain areas of the specification were not answered well and this will help me teach those areas better in the future.
  3. Marking online is brilliant. When I mark exam papers in school, I always mark a question at a time and this is exactly how marking for summer exams was completed. I find it helps me to get in the flow and I get better marking the question. 
  4. It’s quick. Especially the short answer questions of course but even the dreaded six mark questions I managed to get through in a reasonable amount of time whilst remaining accurate. I find when marking hard copies of papers so much time is lost to adding up markings, writing question totals, adding these up etc. and this is removed when marking online.
  5. You’re not left to it. My lead examiner was very supportive and always available to go through any tricky questions I struggled with.
  6. It’s fairly flexible. You have your quota and a deadline but I managed to get through these in plenty of time. I certainly didn’t have to shut myself away for two weeks to get it done. Once the deadline had passed, there was an opportunity to complete extra and, seeing pound signs, I completed as many more as I liked. There was no obligation to keep going though.
  7. It is monotonous. Whilst I valued the experience hugely, and the extra funds will be gratefully received, marking exams is mind numbing at times. I needed regular breaks and had to set myself mini goals to keep me motivated. This, for me was the only negative.

If anyone was considering marking exams, it is something I would recommend as I learned a lot and will hopefully be offered more marking next year.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Walking Talking Exams – Part 2

Last week we ran our first walking talking trial exam for year 11. The purpose for running it were to Improve upon certain points:

  1. To boost confidence in exams – A large number of our Year 11 were feeling demoralised after poor trial exam results.
  2. Improve exam technique – subject knowledge was not the main issue but students were evidently not answering exactly what the question asked.
  3. Application of knowledge – students avoided questions that included any content they hadn’t learnt about. They couldn’t see past this and identify exactly what the question was about.
  4. Model long answer questions – students often ignore these completely but we weren’t sure why (time, perception of difficulty, effort?)

It being the first time we’d tried anything like this, we weren’t sure how it would run. Here is how it ran:

  1. We had a PA system set up so that students could hear us loud and clear.
  2. A projector screen ran a countdown clock so we, and students could easily keep pace.
  3. Students were told that normal exam conditions applied, that we would read the questions and then explain our thought process.
  4. We still had invigilator as this helped students to take it as seriously as any normal trial.
  5. Students were encouraged not to move on without waiting for us.
  6. We read each question and gave the students pointers, not answers, to answering the question.
  7. We identified the area of the specification the question related to and reminded the student the answer could only be something they have been taught about. This was especially important with applied questions.
  8. We allowed the timer to run continuously allowing 1 minute per mark as in the exam.

What we have found out since the trial:

  1. The majority of students found it helpful and asked for more walking talking mocks before their real exams in the summer.
  2. Results were improved, significantly in a number of cases.
  3. Students have felt more confident about their examinations in the summer.
  4. Considering the guidance students received, areas where knowledge is lacking is more clearly obvious and so wil help us to focus revision in the coming weeks.
  5. Some students said they ran out of time because we were talking for too long. Taking this in to account, more time may be needed for a walking talking mock exams if we run more.
  6. It has helped us as teachers understand the exam process more clearly and helped us to give better revision guidance and support.
  7. It reminded us just how important the examiners reports are.

I would recommend walking talking trials to any school. For us, it has been the boost we all, students and teachers, needed to help us all feel more confident about the summer.