Ofqual publishes initial research on quality of marking

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Exams regulator Ofqual has today (Friday, 7th June) published the first research from a programme of work looking at the quality of marking for GCSEs, A levels and other academic qualifications.

A significant and growing minority of teachers and headteachers have told Ofqual that they do not believe marking has been good enough in recent years, particularly for GCSEs. The percentage of enquiries about results received regarding preliminary marks does remain small, but it is rising year on year.

In response, the regulator is carrying out a review of the marking system for external exams – those marked by the exam boards – for GCSEs, A levels and other academic qualifications.

There have been significant developments in marking over the past decade, particularly with the use of new technology. The initial report sets out how marking works today and identifies areas for further exploration. This report will be followed by two further reports in the coming months.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said: “This initial research shows there have been significant developments in marking in recent years. We believe the increased use of on-screen marking is a positive thing, as it allows for more frequent and flexible monitoring of examiners, and reduces the logistical risks. We are aware though, that this does bring with it risks of new administration problems, which must be managed properly.

“I was heartened to see that our examiners, some 50,000, are overwhelmingly well educated teachers, experienced in their subject and in marking. They play their part in the public institution of awarding and we value and respect the contribution they make.

“As we set out in the report, the biggest factor influencing the reliability of marking is the design of the assessment itself – the style and quality of the questions and the quality of the accompanying mark schemes. These are matters we intend to improve as qualifications are reformed.”

Other areas that Ofqual is interested in exploring in more detail include:

  • The benefits and drawbacks associated with double-marking, where two examiners independently mark responses
  • The benefits and drawbacks of item-level marking, where scripts are split into individual questions which are marked by different examiners
  • The impact of different methods of standardisation on marking quality
  • The use of common tolerances for differences in professional examiner judgements across exam boards
  • Establishing a common suite of metrics to measure quality of marking across exam boards
  • The role of mark schemes in ensuring marking reliability
  • Stakeholder perceptions of marking
  • Any issues with marking quality in different subject types or exam boards.

This initial report will be followed later in the summer by a report on the arrangements for challenging marks and grades – the Enquiries About Results and appeals processes – and a third report in the autumn detailing the results of Ofqual’s further work, with final recommendations.