The effect of marker background and training on the quality of marking in GCSE English

Historically, in the UK, marker selection criteria for national examinations have been a matter of custom and practice. Only recently has empirical evidence of the effect of background on marking reliability begun to be gathered. This study attempts to disentangle the effects of marking experience, subject knowledge and teaching experience on marking reliability in GCSE English. GCSE English examiners (97), trainee English teachers (81), English undergraduates (99) and undergraduates from other disciplines (82) marked 199 part-scripts. Overall the groups marked equally accurately. Examiners’ marking was more consistent than that of undergraduates but there was no difference in the consistency of examiners and trainee teachers. There were, however, some undergraduates who marked as well as the best examiners. Particular items were more difficult for certain groups to mark reliably. This could not be predicted by surface characteristics such as maximum mark. A sophisticated, evidence based method of allocating items to markers with different levels of expertise is required.

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