Friday 4 February 2011

An explanation of the exams

I just realised I very rudely never explained about my exam marking, in answer to a comment last week, so I will take a moment to do that now.

GCSEs are compulsory exams in the UK, that students must take at 16 (10th grade) before they can leave school. They are set nationally, by several exam boards, so that they are the same for every student. They cover an enormous range of subjects; most pupils sit around 10 different subjects. There are some compulsory subjects, like Maths, Science and English Literature/Language.

I am a team leader for the exam board, for a History paper. That means I am in charge of a team of examiners who are all marking the paper, and I have to mark a bit myself, and make sure they are sticking to the markscheme and keeping the standard. This is my 8th exam series, and my 3rd as a team leader. Normally I only do this in June, but big changes to exams in 2009 mean that my paper is now modular, so students can opt to take a paper in January instead of two in June.

We used to mark actual paper exam scripts. Enormous bundles of these would arrive at my house and I'd have red pen all over my hands for the entire marking period. Samples had to be trusted to the Post Office so that marking could be standardised.

Now it's a bit easier, because all the exam papers are scanned in by the exam board and made available through a special online marking program. This makes the whole job a lot easier, especially because we can put in "mystery answers" - responses we have already marked - to check the examiners are keeping to the markscheme. The computer does a lot of the hard work now. However, it still takes a long time, and I am a bit miserable with it this week. Normally the exam period is 3 weeks long, bit this time it is only 10 days, so I am run a bit ragged.

It makes me a better teacher, doing this extra work, because I know my subject and the exam criteria better than most other teachers. And also the money is extremely handy. Wink.

Hope that explains it some!

1 comment:

Christine E-E said...

Sally - you are awesome! perhaps I was the one asking about the exams. Always curious about education in other countries...

The US is in dire need of revamping our system! makes me want to retire sooner, than later!

I can't imagine grading exams while also teaching --- but I see JPE (hubs) hunkered down over his computer (every couple of weeks) reading, typing and marking comments to his university students. All this after his regular day job as director of a sober high school (14-17 year olds working on their sobriety -- drugs, alcohol, marijuana --- destructive behaviors)... I don't know how he does it - wait! I do... he's younger than me! is a Virgo (focused, driven, regimented)! part-time university teaching is not a money maker in the US so, he does it for the intellectual stimulation & his love of mentoring others!

I appreciate the info about your exams in the UK... I laughed at the sight of your red tipped fingers!! love it!