'Everyone was marking something'

26th August 2005 at 01:00
An Edexcel employee's experiences as a marker...

When I took GCSEs as a teenager, I remember the one thing I took for granted was the belief that my efforts would be judged fairly.

I pictured an eminently qualified and experienced examiner marking my work in a fusty little study in Kent, studiously scratching away at my manuscript with a fountain pen flowing with red ink. Little did the 16-year-old me know that I would eventually be marking GCSEs in very different circumstances.

I heard about the Edexcel marking initiative through colleagues, then received a few emails from management stating that if you had the relevant qualifications you could earn extra money helping out with marking papers.

It paid well too: pound;25 per hour during the week and pound;50 at weekends.

Soon everyone I knew at Edexcel seemed to be marking something or other.

Orders from the MD stated it was a priority and that all other work should be dropped. A few emails later and it seemed the management was desperate for anybody with a brain to help. So I joined in.

Papers I marked included religious studies GCSE. You can guess my qualifications. Not an examiner by trade? Check (I have never taught or assessed anyone in my life). Irrelevant qualifications? Check (I have a degree in a subject as far removed from RS as you can imagine and don't even have a GCSE in the subject). But there I was, marking.

My meteoric journey from corporate nobody to examiner was completed after an induction one afternoon that was much shorter than I'd expected. I was given a run-through marking criteria, set up on the software-specific machines and allowed to mark straight away.

It was a surprise to learn that I wasn't just expected to mark multiple-choice, but extended writing answers as well.

People were ringing up others across the office to corroborate answers. At no point was I aware that my marking capability was being tested or spot-checked.

I quite enjoyed it, having a laugh at the kids' responses. By the end I felt I had become quite good at examining - but it's difficult to tell when you don't know how you are doing.

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