Remarks and general marking from a teacher and examiner's POV

(95 Posts)
Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 15:44:24

I'm not new to mums net but I am a 'lurker'. I've found reading many threads in here very interesting.

I have been teaching for 10 years at GCSE and A Level only (all exam students) and I am also an examiner for 2 different exam boards and two different subjects. I team lead a paper so examiner experience is pretty good (since 2007)

Remarks- they are done by a more senior examine - TL or PE (principal examiner) depending on subject and exam board approx 30% of exam papers are sent for remarks! Most do not change but approx 10% will change (up or down) in some cases it is because the original paper was harshly or weakly marked. Occasionally it may be a computer clerical error (most exam boards use online marking/scanned scripts)

In many cases where I HAVE awarded more marks its actually due to poor handwriting on the student's part. They are often so tricky to read that the examiner can't decipher what is being written - often then unable to apply to the mark scheme. I have more time and more experience and can often 'figure out' what is being said. I really recommend those students with tiny microscopic handwriting or poor handwriting to type!

Not every single paper is double checked so sometimes standards do slip sadly. I have to sample my team 3 times (total of 30 samples) when they mark 150 papers so some will slip through.

When having a remark the new examiner doesn't know the school/sex/background so have no idea if you've asked for a paper back too or what your teacher thinks. They simply re-apply the markscheme to the work.

As a teacher I am genuinely shocked that schools are recommending remarks without script photocopies first! It's such a risk and say the mark goes up by 2/3 and puts the student from a d to a c it still doesn't show where the student went wrong if they were expected an A grade.

It saves the parent money (or the school if they are paying) but the student learns nothing. Don't forget that UMS marks can be nearly 2 x the raw mark depending on where within the mark scale the student sits. So if it is remarked and goes from a C to a B it's probably gone up ~ 5 raw marks (depending on the original score) which is about 10 UMS marks, so it's just as easy to lose a grade as it is to gain one.

titchy Sun 21-Aug-16 16:45:43

1. Universities won't hang around waiting for copy scripts then a remark. They normally give applicants two weeks for a priority remark. No more.

2. If you're having an A2 or GCSE script remarked, especially in a subject you're not carrying on with, you're not looking for a learning opportunity to see which topics you were wrong on, you're just trying to see if there is an extra mark or two to be squeezed out!

mummymeister Sun 21-Aug-16 16:51:44

Thanks for posting this. one of my DC missed first choice offer by 1 UMS mark in one subject and because it is a popular course at a popular Uni they wont take DC. So, we feel that we have no option but to go for a remark.

the reason schools don't ask for script photocopies first is because of the deadlines that Unis put on people. accommodation is a huge thing to take account of and delays in waiting for remarks mean that students might miss out on accommodation at their insurance or the uni that they have found to take them through clearing.

I do think that as a matter of course all scripts ought to be returned to schools and to the students so that they can learn where they went wrong and that teachers can identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

this is our first time going through the Uni route and I have to say the whole thing has a bit of a "secret squirrel" feel about it . The stats on remarks ought to be readily accessible on the exam boards website. how many went up? how many went down? how many weren't predicted grades? what were the issues?

as far as unis are concerned then they should publish for each and every course the grades for the people that they took in, the number of students who missed their offer but were still taken. I find the lack of transparency of this whole system really staggering. when you think of the scrutiny teachers are put under why is the exam system so hidden away and only the grade information available?

who is actually marking the papers this year bearing in mind the well publicised issues around recruitment?

Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 17:41:34

In relation to AS exams and yes there are a few still running modular (one of my subjects is modular- geology) for another year then a read through the script is vital first.

Obviously I understand the speed required for university places hence the priority script system but what triggered my post were two post made where the student concerned had a) already got a place where I priority remark was not essential and b) where the student had sat AS exams- again a priority remark was not essential.

I just see so many scripts drop marks/have no change that it seems a big risk for parents and students to take without knowing why they were marked as they were.

Regarding recruitment- all of my 2 subjects contained only teachers HOWEVER we were short on staff so the overall quantities examiners had to complete in the 3 week timeframe were obscene this year. I alone would say I marked 2000 responses between 1st June and the 15th July.......

mummymeister Sun 21-Aug-16 17:45:15

Thanks shadowboy - what dedication to mark 2000+ scripts and I am assuming this is not as well paid as it should be! I am trying to find out how long AQA usually take for a remark as we are really up against it in terms of committing to another Uni for accommodation which they want paid for in the next couple of days. anything I can do to speed the process along?

Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 19:23:15

I couldn't say for AQA but if they are scanned scripts it's pretty quick 3-7 days but handmarked scripts can take longer as they are usually handmarked for a reason- can't be scanned, so they have to be posted out to the examiner and then posted back. Sorry I can't help further!

DoctorDonnaNoble Sun 21-Aug-16 19:29:41

Sometimes the script is not entirely helpful. Due to the regulations on what annotations can be made it is not always clear why a marker has/hasn't awarded a mark (particularly in my subject, English).
I agree with what you say about handwriting, I have several students I suspect lost out on a grade for this reason.

pootlepootle Sun 21-Aug-16 19:33:02

God help her. dd has appalling handwriting. thursday here it comes.

LadyPenelope68 Sun 21-Aug-16 19:33:29

I'm presuming your reference to an AS remark is as a result of my post as that is the only post I can see regarding a remark for AS Level.

When there is a huge discrepancy in the mock result/predicted grade/results of other Module of the AS level then there is obviously IMO going to be a request for a regrade and something that the School have actually recommended. Given that the return of scripts first doesn't often happen quickly enough for the request for remark to actually happen before the deadline, schools are often in a position where a remark has to be the first request.

Continuation of places at Sixth Form are often dependent on results of AS Levels, so to make a sweeping statement that, in your opinion, they are not a priority is incorrect.

Bluemoon49 Sun 21-Aug-16 20:38:03

I see I must have been the other person who triggered your post smile thanks for commenting on my thread and offering your advice. I can see your point and I have convinced DD to request the script for english first before going straight in for a remark, as I suppose there is a possibility that it could go down considering 6 ums marks could be the equivalent of 3 raw marks. Seems astounding that she is a B at moment and could loose 3 raw marks and drop to a C. I may be a bit simple minded but to me it seems like there is very little difference between all the grades, in that you don't have to go up or down by much to change grades completely. The more I find out the more I can't help feeling the whole system is unfair, but I suppose that's besides the point!

Just wondering, since you are an experienced examiner and currently working in the system, could you tell me any more about the changes to remarking apparently being brought in this year? Has this actually been implemented for this summer and what exactly do they mean by a 'marking error'?

We are thinking there is a very real chance there's been an error with the English exam as its quite far off her predicted grade and usual performance.

Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 20:48:47

Of course you need to do what you see fit in your specific situation. My post was basically to provide parents who have no idea how the remark system works a point of view completely detached from the student/school etc. I personally would not remark unless I knew I was 'safe' knowing there would be no drop in marks.

I am however suprised that your daughter's college would not allow her to continue her course based on one U if they were truly suprised by the score- and she had attained A grades on other modules. It would be very unjust of them to do so. She would just need to resist that module next summer and trait entries are not needed until February 2017. I'd understand them 'barring' a student for course continuation of they had E's and U's in their modules (that's our policy anyway)
I hope your daughter's mark goes up and it was simply a clerical error.

Regarding script photocopies not being useful due to minimal comments- I don't put any comments on the papers that I mark. So yes comments are not useful however a teacher going through with the student sat next to them the paper highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly is very useful and sometimes I can simply say to a student ' you simply didn't answer the question'

Anyway, like I said, I was just posting to illustrate how it works from the 'other side'

I have attached costing and remark deadlines.

noblegiraffe Sun 21-Aug-16 20:59:36

Worth pointing out that you can't ask for the script before requesting a remark at GCSE, only at AS/A-level. Also you can't see the script first if you need a priority remark.

Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 21:03:23

Blue moon49

In my subject there were 5 raw marks between grades. For example the paper was out of 70. An A grade this year was 52 and a B grade was 47... And so on so its easy to both jump a grade and drop a grade.

All I have been told is that a marking error is where a student is clearly in the wrong level (on levelled questions) because what they have written does not match the level descriptors, or perhaps a student only needs to attain 2 of a number of descriptor points and did this but the examiner did not follow the guidelines and therefore didn't allocate that level.

It might be that the examiner did not follow a point highlighted in bold in the mark scheme I.e sometimes mark schemes state candidates MUST..... And the candidate did/didn't do what was highlighted.

I've been instructed that on levelled answers if the student is in the correct level band say L2 (4-7 marks out of 10) but it's tricky to argue if it was a 6 or 7 then I am told not to change the mark the original examiner awarded unless it specifically states in the MS something like 'where comparisons have been made clear student should access top of Level'

I think it's because the number of scripts being returned for remarks was becoming so high the exam boards were struggling to cops as only higher level examiners can do remarks (we are a team of 10 compared to the 88 summer examining team over summer series)

My fingers are crossed it was an error for her and if it is you'll also get the money back! Sadly not an apology from the exam board!

Shadowboy Sun 21-Aug-16 21:04:50

Noble giraffe that's correct- the table I added in above highlights that! Yes sorry I should have mentioned GCSE!

Headofthehive55 Sun 21-Aug-16 23:49:52

5 raw marks between a C and A.
Wow. And we have young people feeling rubbish about themselves.

mummymeister Mon 22-Aug-16 00:06:26

Yes headofthehive55 - 1 UMS point, not one mark, but one UMS point between getting the uni of choice and not. I know its been done to death on MN before but I really despise the current system where offers are made and kids have to pick before their results. I know all of the reasons given but surely we need a rethink and to start getting offers when exam results are known. dates for exams and uni starts can be changed if there is a will. its a bit like house hunting, seeing one you love and putting in an offer before you know the advertised price.

Coffeewith1sugar Mon 22-Aug-16 00:51:36

Think it's 15 marks between A to C as shadow says is 5 marks between each grade. Still rather narrow though.
Some of the essay subjects are definitely worth getting copies back for a 2nd opinion. DD had her AS History remarked a year ago came back 15ums higher. The quality of marking was shocking. The history tutor dd had (because she had a crap history teacher at school) looked at the examiners reports to decipher what was required to access the higher grade and all the other little clues and mistakes students made that hindered them moving up boudaries. They found dd had hit the higher grade areas of responses but to doubly check, also asked opinion of another teacher who marked exam papers for the exam boards he was also shocked. Just shows they can still make big mistakes even if there's systems in place to stop this sort of in consistent marking from happening.
But also as I remember later on in that year, it was revealed that for dd AS History, exam boards had difficulty recruiting enough History teachers to mark the exams so I guess they must have had to get less experienced ones. But still, its not good for our DC who's future depend on accurate markings.

AtiaoftheJulii Mon 22-Aug-16 07:09:37

Dd2 got a copy of a maths paper back last year, purely to see where she had gone wrong as she was planning on retaking it, and we were surprised to see that in two places she should have got a mark but just hadn't. Once probably was because of her dodgy handwriting.

She's got her uni place this year, but I'm wondering about a remark for one of her subjects where she's 3 ums off the A* - again, I'm mostly wondering because her handwriting isn't great. On first glance it looks quite neat, lol, but then when you read the words it can make her spelling look inaccurate when it's not, but she has some weird letter formations - and on an mfl paper I imagine correct spelling is preferable!

Million2One Mon 22-Aug-16 13:02:35

This is an interesting thread.

as far as unis are concerned then they should publish for each and every course the grades for the people that they took in, the number of students who missed their offer but were still taken. I find the lack of transparency of this whole system really staggering

I wholeheartedly agree. There is much too much guesswork especially for Middle-ranking students (ie MOST of them wink ) It would be a million times better if we switched to a system where DCs only applied to Uni after receiving their results. It would be a big change but it would be doable. It would be fairer, less stressful, more transparent and would surely save money. I think it would also promote disadvantaged (or very nervous) students who tend not to apply for 'aspirational' University places.

The fact that predicted grades are getting increasingly inaccurate year on year is making the current system more and more unfair. It need to change.

Sadusername Mon 22-Aug-16 13:18:23

I am sure you could ask a university under freedom of information act!

LadyPenelope68 Mon 22-Aug-16 13:21:14

Yes, you might be able to request that information but you should be able to access it much more easily and it all be more transparent.

titchy Mon 22-Aug-16 13:28:00

The problem with that is it leads to false senses of security. Just because an entrant gained a place having had BBB instead of the usual AAA advertised, doesn't mean that BBB will be enough the following year. But everyone with BBB predictions would think they were in with a chance and waste a place.

All universities state their standard offer. That is the basis upon which applicants should decide.

FWIW each year Oxbridge take students with Access courses and BTECS.

Headofthehive55 Mon 22-Aug-16 13:34:56

that's why we should have a post exams system.

titchy Mon 22-Aug-16 15:32:51

I don't disagree with a post exams system (it'll never happen though!) but requiring universities to publish all entry quals as well as offer quals wouldn't work for the reasons i posted amongst other reasons.

tropicalfish Mon 22-Aug-16 15:57:02

This is an excellent thread and dd's school has not explained the options and pros and cons of remarks and script returns.

if my dd gets a marked script back how much will she be able to discern whether she should have been allocated 4 ums more for example.
Is there a mark scheme she can compare her marked paper against? This is prior to requesting a remark? I would have thought that it would be difficult for even a teacher to discern this. We wouldnt be talking about the difference between a U and an A*.

The subject is chemistry a2. Would it be worth getting a script return in this case, or would a remark be better?

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