Two fundamental teaching standards are making accurate and productive use of assessment and demonstrating good subject and curriculum knowledge.
Pupil progress is dependent upon them. So, it is paramount that you invest as much time studying the mark scheme as you do planning your lessons. If not, more. For a trainee or newly qualified teacher, this is sometimes the most daunting task, especially for a subject like English.
Each exam board has its own mark schemes, but they all have assessment objectives, levels and skill descriptors. AQA also has indicative standards for their language papers to guide examiners. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
1. Sit with an experienced teacher and discuss how you would grade an essay
Take a pupil response and start with which level you would give them, then more precisely the mark and finally, justify why. Have they fulfilled all of the skill descriptors in the previous band?
Give your experienced teacher a top, middle and bottom level answer to see if they agree. Do this for your first few batches of marking until your marks meet.
2. Use the mark scheme lingo when marking, moderating and teaching
If you can get into the habit of using mark scheme vocabulary like ‘textual detail’ or ‘subject terminology,’ the pupils will follow suit. You could even break down these terms into student-friendly lingo like ‘quotations’ or ‘language devices.’
Some teachers choose to print out student-friendly mark schemes for pupils to use when peer-assessing. They too, get to feel like examiners.
3. Don’t be deceived by fancy words and phrases
Some of my pupils would write the most sophisticated essays, but not answer the question. So, highlight or underline where the pupils have matched the skill descriptors and label the assessment objectives on their answer.
Not only will this guide your marking, it will inform the pupils where they get their marks. Give them exemplary material to grade and compare their answers too. You’ll be surprised by how harsh they can be!
4. Seek to reward
When marking your own pupils’ papers, it is easy to be more critical and have higher expectations. But remember to mark positively. Try to ignore any inaccuracies or throw away comments, as most examiners will do the same.
Remember that pupils are under huge time constraints and pressure, so forgive the odd irrelevant comment (unless specified in the mark scheme). It also helps to make your papers anonymous, so that you can judge completely fairly.
Accurate marking is fundamental to pupil progress, so invest your time in getting it right.
If possible, get an examiner from your exam board to share their wisdom - I’d highly recommend it!
About our Community Expert
Over 5 years of experience in educational settings throughout London, Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst studying English Literature and Language at King’s College London and the University of North Carolina, she fell in love with her subject - both the study of literature and craft of writing.
After graduating, she completed the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, whose mission is to provide equality through education, and attained her PGCE in Secondary English at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was then appointed as Deputy Head of English at one of the highest performing schools in England in a London inner-city academy.
Following this, she completed her Leadership and Management MA at University College London (Institute of Education) and became the director of an English Language company based in Barcelona.
Simi is our English Literature and Language Expert.