In this article we are looking at the key marking challenges faced by awarding bodies and professional organisations around the world. These challenges are based on our first-hand experience with both UK-based and international customers.

Examiner retention and monitoring

Examiner retention and monitoring is a big challenge not only in the UK, but also globally. In the UK, teachers choose whether to or not to become examiners. This means the supply of examiners is not guaranteed each year. Moreover, exam reforms mean virtually all scripts must be marked during summer time, creating an intense workload for examiners in a single period. An increase in pupil numbers over the next few years will intensify the pressure on the system which will have to expand to deal with increased demand, whilst ensuring high-quality marking standards. OCR commissioned research to find out more about what the future of examining could look like in the UK.

E-marking distributes scripts to examiners electronically and in a more flexible manner. This flexibility can help retain examiners.  For example, individual questions can be assigned to examiners. Where an examiner does not mark to standard on a question then she/he can continue to mark other questions. Contrast this to whole script marking, where the same examiner would be prevented from marking any further scripts. Moving marking processes online also increases the potential number of teachers who could become examiners because it reduces the need to travel to meetings. View this video of an examiner who was only able to mark because the marking was online.

E-marking systems save the marks as every script or question is marked and hence provide Awarding Organisations with real-time data of marking progress. These data enable issues to be identified earlier such that corrective action can be taken. Team leaders can view examiner performance and progress continuously and act immediately on any problems.

In other parts of the world, examining is a mandatory part of the teacher’s role. While this may guarantee a supply of examiners, it can present challenges for maintaining marking quality.

Improving assessment cycles

Continuous improvement is necessary to stay competitive in all industries, and the assessment market is no different. Creating a self-improving system which raises education standards further is a must in the assessment sector. One of the ways of doing this is by using past assessment data to improve future assessment cycles.

Traditional paper-based assessments have limitations in terms of the availability of assessment data. It can take months from collecting and analysing the assessment data, to producing the reports and acting on the feedback obtained. E-marking systems can capture data throughout the marking process, allowing exam boards to identify areas for improvement ahead of their next exam session. Data captured through e-marking systems can then be used to identify and potentially resolve pinch points in the examination marking window.

For example, Slovenian exam board NEC found that the data collected in the e-marking system allowed marking quality to be analysed at a granular level, with information available on examiners, topics and even individual questions. The NEC now prepares a report based on this data, which is sent to examiners and school principals who, in turn, suggest further measures to improve marking quality.

Quality of marking

The quality of marking is one of the main challenges and drivers for awarding bodies and professional organisations to transition from pen and paper marking to e-marking. Quality has always been important, but it is vital in a high-stakes sector where results for both students and awarding bodies are of such critical importance.

Poor or inconsistent exam marking has consequences for awarding bodies, such as reputational damage and extra work for examiners due to increasing numbers of re-marking requests.

With e-marking, addition errors, as well as cultural and gender biases are eliminated. Examiners do not need to add up the marks; the computer does it for them. Scripts are anonymised of candidate details and hence candidate names cannot influence examiner scoring. E-marking can improve the quality assurance of exam marking through the use of quality control models that are not easily available on paper-based marking: seeding, double marking and item level marking. Real-time monitoring enables team leaders to identify any marking quality issues early and intervene. Communication tools enable examiners to get rapid and accurate feedback whilst keeping the communications secure.

After implementing e-marking, awarding bodies register a significant decrease in the number of enquiries on results. Read this case study for more details.

Is marking quality one of your challenges?
If you want to find out how e-marking can help you improve the quality assurance of your exam marking, join our webinar presented by Martin Adams, Senior Business Analyst, Annie Mehmet and Steve Harrington – Account Directors at RM Results on the 19th and 20th July.

Follow our webinar channel to stay up to date with our webinar series on key marking challenges and how e-marking can help to overcome them.