Much Ado About ”Marking” (Exam Scripts)

The last time I blogged here, it was about how annoying marking examination scripts can be and here I am at the time of the semester where I need to mark again. It seems like a never-ending venture. I am wondering if I can last another 17 years doing this. Yup, marking (and invigilating) examinations could easily be the worst aspect of the ”job” as I have mentioned in another previous post here.

Let me tell you why it’s such a dreaded part of the job, especially from my part of the ”academia world” (aka UiTM) where having 30-60 students per annum and 8 hours of teaching per semester is something we can only dream of. Having students running into the hundreds, with a minimum of 16 hours a week is a norm for us, definitely making marking a stressful recurrent responsibility.

In my experience, marking final examination scripts involve two major tasks:

1) Managing the ”Management”

2) Managing the Process

These two tasks most of the time runs concurrently.

1) Managing the “Management”

Managing the ”management” will usually involved taking notice of and adhering to the formalities in place by the management in dealing with:

(a) the time frame given for the whole process of marking and assessment,

(b) the safety of the scripts,

(c) the system used to submits the results, and

(d) the politics for borderline results.

Especially in my case, the time given never seem to make sense nor tally with the sheer number of students under my charge. The procedures involved in ensuring the safety of the scripts, although understandable and a system, which can only be accessible within the university’s campus further adds into the time constraints. Once all assessment is completed, we are then responsible to make sure that all marks are uploaded into the system accurately according to the time frame given. No margin of error is acceptable! I won’t divulge on point (d). I think most universities would have some sort of practice in place in dealing with such cases. We have ours, and I need to consider them before I finalize the results.

2) Managing the Process

Managing the process of marking and assessment will usually involved dealing with:

(a) The questions


(b) The answers

The questions are set up by a Resource Person and will come complete with its set of suggested answer schemes. And because it’s only a suggestion, I would still need to sit down and discuss the schemes with the rest of my colleagues who may be marking the same subject. Some form of standardization is required in order to ensure that we strive for consistency and objectivity in our assessment. We’d need to consider several things of course, including the differences in the style of our teaching of the subject and the examples shared with our students. Again, all this management requires time and cooperation on the part of all examiners.

When it comes to the answers and all the different versions presented by students, examiners need to face the annoyance I used to point out in my earlier post and try be as objective and fair as possible. It can get pretty tricky sometimes, especially when some of the answers do not follow the conventional answers provided in the answer scheme. But their answers are not necessarily wrong either. So at times, some subjectivity is present in order to be fair to the students.

The marking and assessment process, therefore, involves a lot of time, for managing the formalities and  deliberation of all the marks deserved by the students. It is not something that’s pretty straight forward, definitely the less fun part of academia life, at least in my academia life ;-).

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