Exam Papers: Who Marks Them & How Are They Marked?

In A-Level, GCSE, General by Think Student Editor2 Comments

Throughout your experience in school, you will almost definitely experience an exam, including the compulsory GCSE and A-Level examinations. This is a very standard procedure, and one which most schools will have completed many times. However, after completing your exam, it seems like you never see them again. So, what happens to them, and where exactly do they go?

After completing your exam, your paper will go to your exam board for storing and marking. They are marked by the exam boards’ team of examiners, who have been trained. There are also the senior examiners who ensure that the quality of marking remains high, by checking the marking of the examiners. Your papers are stored in a secure location in line with JCQ’s regulations. The papers will be sent to marked by either pen-and-paper or be scanned and sent digitally to the examiners to be marked online.

In the rest of this article, we will be looking more at who marks GCSE and A-Level papers, and the differences between internal and external marking. To find out more, you should read on.

Who marks GCSE papers?

The GCSE papers are marker by examiners, hired by the exam board. The examiners are usually teachers, or former teachers.

They are required to have experience in teaching to be able to qualify to mark. All the examiners receive training to follow a common standard to ensure they understand mark schemes and how to award marks.

How are GCSE papers marked?

The first step for your GCSE papers is to be shipped. After completing the exam, the exams officer will send of the completed exam papers, which are known as ‘scripts’. They will arrive at a storage facility, which keeps the exam papers secure. The JCQ has set out regulations to the exam boards that store the papers, to ensure security.

From here one of two things will happen. The most likely case will be the individual scripts will be separated into sections by computers, then scanned and sent digitally to examiners. The examiner will mark it from their own device, and then send it back digitally.

In some cases, the papers will be marked the traditional way using pen and paper.

There are different ways that the paper can be marked. Usually, the examiner receives and ‘allocation’ of papers in which they have to mark. This allocation is usually the same question or section of a paper.

For example, the examiner will receive an allocation of ‘Section A’ from ‘Paper X of Subject X.’ Along with this, they receive the mark scheme for that question or section.

In other circumstances, the examiner will receive an allocation of whole scripts to mark. It depends on the length of the test. For GCSE English papers, usually examiners receive an allocation of the specific questions.

The scripts will then have its marked totalled, and for each person, the marks for different scripts for each subject will be totalled and graded after the grade boundaries have been decided.

Who marks A-Level papers?

In the same way as the GCSE papers, A-Level papers are marked by examiners, that are hired by the exam board. Once again, these examiners will need to have an understanding of how mark schemes work and experience in using them. They will also need to meet any other requirements that each exam board sets.

How are A-Level papers marked?

The A-Level papers are marked in the same way as the GCSE papers. They will be sent to the exam board, then sent to the examiner who will mark it and then upload it back to the exam board.

This will generally be done digitally. The scripts marks will be totalled, and then the marks for different papers in the same subject totalled and graded.

How are exams marked fairly?

It is the responsibility of the exam board to ensure all examiners mark fairly. The first point of this in the use of anonymity.

The examiners do not see and personal information of the student, but only receive the candidate number. This is done to remove bias.

Next, exam boards will ensure that they hire the right people. They usually only hire people with experience in teaching and using things like mark schemes. They will also give them training and ensure that their papers reach the correct standards of marking using senior examiners.

All examiners must pass a criterion, by comparing the marking of a normal examiner, to a senior examiner. All examiners also receive regular checking of their marking. AQA state that:

“A senior examiner checks the marking for the first ten scripts. When the examiner is halfway through their allocated scripts, the senior examiner checks another fifteen scripts. If there are concerns, they review additional papers and a decision is made to the ability of the examiner”

Different exam boards will have different processes for marking and quality assurances. You can view these by click on the corresponding links below.

Are exam papers marked externally?

GCSE papers that are conducted in an examination hall/centre are marked externally by the exam board. However, there are some things that are not marked by them.

If your subject has a type of coursework, this may be marked internally. For some subjects, this is called coursework or a non-examined assessment (NEA). This is the case for subjects like GCSE Art or Design and Technology.

The teachers will have to follow guidelines given by the exam board, and JCQ. The exam board may request to mark some again, even after being marked to ensure that the papers are marked to a good standard. It is up to the headteacher, teacher and exam board to ensure malpractice is caught onto.

How much do examiners get paid?

There is not really a lot of information on this. When you go on the OCR exam boards website, an average they say is “£250 – £1500”.

What that means is for an allocation of tests, you can receive different payments. Assuming, this is ‘get paid per paper’, this variation is due to how many papers, how hard it is to mark or maybe even your experience. You should refer to the OCR exam board’s website above.

How do you become an examiner?

To become an examiner, you need to have some sort of experience marking and teaching in schools beforehand. Otherwise, you need to be well qualified in your subject.

For example, AQA hire a small amount of PhD students as they find them to be good at marking. Otherwise, you should refer to the exam boards website to apply.

In this article we have discussed GCSE and A-Level internal and external examinations, how they are carried out and how the quality is assured. You should refer to the exam boards websites above, or click here to go to the government’s guidance on the exams to learn more about the information included in this article.

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Martin coles
Martin coles
8 months ago

What if the students writing is very poor and answers are almost illegible

Calvin Fang
Calvin Fang
Reply to  Martin coles
3 months ago

We mark what we can read