Diary of an NQT: Marking

Written by: NQT diarist | Published:
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With a large pile of practice exams to mark, our NQT diarist is constantly honing his approach to ensure his marking is efficient, effective and fair

It is now only two weeks until year 11 goes on exam leave and for some of my groups that means one lesson. I am looking forward to the time I am going to gain and hopefully I will feel a little less stressed.

I think as a teacher you learn to accept that even though we are all as busy as each other, spending our time teaching, marking, going to meetings, writing reports and everything else that we do, you are never truly on top of everything. You simply can’t be.

I remember in my training year thinking that it was a disaster when I hadn’t written the lesson review for a particular lesson – and it used to really bother me.

However, now I feel that I have perfected the art of prioritising and making sure the odd jobs are completed when they need to be completed – which in reality is all that matters anyway. I really don’t think you can be a teacher and sit there at the end of a day, week or term and (honestly) say, “I have caught up with everything that needs to be done”.

But then again, that is partly why I love this job – no day is like any other and there is never a chance to be bored.
This week is the week of marking. You all know what I am talking about. Years 10 and 11 have just all completed practice exams. I teach three core science year 10 groups and four additional science year 11 groups.

In reality, this probably equates to 175 papers that need to marked within the next week. This is hard and I find it can become tiresome at times. However, I have come up with some rules for marking that I like to follow to make sure that I get through as many papers as I can per marking “session”.

First things first, I always make sure that I sit at a desk comfortably, shut my door, put on some great music and make sure that I have the mark scheme printed and laid out in front of me. You now have no reason to move or need to go and get other things. A nice red pen (or colour of your choice) to write with also helps.

Second, we need to consider the argument between marking a whole paper at a time or marking a question/page at a time. When I started teaching last year I was all about marking a whole paper at a time and slowly watching my pile of marking decrease and seeing the progress.

However, now I definitely favour marking one question at a time. This way, by the fifth answer I have marked I have already learnt the mark scheme and I know exactly what I am looking for.

However, beware – make sure you look at all of the mark scheme when marking like this. If halfway through you notice that annoying little “allow...” annotation, then you will have to go back and check all the answers that you have already “marked”. Not that I am speaking from my own experience or anything...

Third, take short but frequent breaks. Just for a few minutes. If you are marking a six-plus mark question and you do 30 in a row, by the time you get to the last paper you are not going to be marking fairly and that student is not going to get the attention they deserve for their answer.

Finally, always mark a good paper last. Don’t finish on a paper where the student has had a bad day and scored under what they normally would.

Make yourself feel good about your students and end on a high! We all love to see our students achieve.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of science from a school in the Midlands.


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