OCR works with more than 14,000 examiners, the vast majority of whom are teachers. Examiners mark across a range of subjects and qualifications; last summer, OCR examiners marked nearly 4 million GCSE and A-level exam scripts.
In this Q&A, science teacher Julie Gauntlet outlines some of the benefits being an examiner has had on her teaching career.
Julie, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have been teaching for almost 30 years, and am currently an assistant headteacher in a federation of a boys’ and a girls’ school. I teach science and chemistry across both schools. I became a GCSE examiner for OCR in 1993 and from 1999 worked as a team leader, before being appointed as principal examiner in 2008.
What made you initially sign up to be an examiner?
As a young teacher of science, keen to further my career, it did not take much persuasion from my then head of science to join her in applying to be an examiner. She was convinced that examining work would benefit me professionally and would bring departmental benefits in terms of teaching. That has certainly proved to be the case. My husband and I had also just bought our first house and the extra money certainly came in useful!
How do you manage to fit it in around being a full-time teacher?
I won’t deny that the exam marking session can be very busy, juggling examining and school work. However, provided you are disciplined it’s not a problem. Before I begin marking I prepare by making sure that I am as on top of my school work as possible. The marking period itself only lasts for about four to five weeks and coincides with year 11 and 13 being on study leave so my time at school is a little more flexible.
What do you enjoy about being an examiner?
Examining has given me added confidence as a teacher. I am secure in the knowledge that I am interpreting the specification in the way that it will be examined. When students ask me “So what might a question on this topic look like?” I am able to immediately draw on a wealth of past exam questions that I remember marking, to illustrate what they might be asked.
What support do examiners receive?
Examiners receive thorough training in the consistent application of the mark scheme. Through a process of marking practice scripts, then standardisation scripts, examiners become familiar with the mark scheme and receive feedback and guidance on their marking from their team leader. This enables them to become confident that they understand the mark scheme before they mark. Examiners then receive feedback throughout the marking period, ensuring that their marking remains consistent and accurate. An examiner always has someone to refer problems to – their team leader. There is a clear line of support so that any difficulties are resolved swiftly.
Would you recommend examining to others?
Absolutely! I honestly believe that the benefits of examining, both on a personal and school level, cannot be underestimated. I have been able to share my expertise with colleagues, talking about the specification and giving advice on the interpretation of mark schemes. It’s effectively free “in house” training.
I can also advise my students about the pitfalls of particular questions, giving examples of key misconceptions around topics and the kinds of answers that fail to gain credit. When it comes to marking mock exams (a chore to many teachers) I already have an expert knowledge of the mark scheme and am able to advise the department on its consistent application. Teachers are increasingly required to make expert grade predictions for their students and I am able to do that with unique insights and knowledge. I’ve also been able to mentor new staff and develop their confidence in preparing students for examinations.
To find out more about life as an OCR examiner and how to apply, click here.
This article first appeared in The Guardian, April 2016 as a paid advertorial, and is reproduced by kind permission of OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations)