Testing examiners

14th September 2007 at 01:00
As a marker of a few hundred scripts of GCSE English (spec B, higher tier) from 20 schools, I was struck by the lack of understanding of the mind games 16-year-olds can play with the examiner to their advantage.

I willingly took on the task of marking but I needed to be encouraged by a presentation which would enable me to react positively to the answers. Some papers were outstanding, but many caused audible groans of frustration.

Firstly, the majority of students did not write the question numbers in the grid on the front cover, as instructed. This meant that the examiner had to do it, ensuring the student's answer order was followed, eg 1, 3, 2.

It was very common to run bullet points together or dodge from one to another and back again. This was acceptable if the student had a full grasp of the question, but generally it betrayed a lack of logical thinking. If a bullet point is answered in a single paragraph and a line missed before the next one, then the student forces himherself to think more clearly and the examiner can appreciate the answer more easily.

Not many students, in composing the letter, used a letter frame. Examiners were told that this was not vital. But a student not using a frame is not focussed on the letter and all that entails; nor can the examiner be impressed by the student's knowledge of how a letter should be presented.

What about handwriting? Occasionally it was so bad that it was very difficult for me to read the answers. The consequent eyeache strained my tolerance level to the limit.

As for spelling, why did so many scripts contain misspellings of words? Ignorance or carelessness?

Roger Bennett

Retired head of English, GCSE examiner and marker,

Coosehecca,

Chacewater,

Truro

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