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Should I become an exam marker?

Discussion in 'English' started by CarolineEm, Jan 8, 2004.

  1. CarolineEm

    CarolineEm New commenter

    I teach part-time and this year have a number of classes in yrs 11 and 12 who will be finished by mid-May. With the implementation of the workload agreement I may not have much invigilation to do. With such a light timetable I was wondering whether or not to become an examination marker - and if so whether to look at SATS, English GCSE, English A/S or Media A/S, all of which I teach.

    Anyone got any thoughts on this? How much time does it take up? When do scripts have to be in by? How local do preparation meetings tend to be? Do you get paid for them? How much, financially, are you better off at the end of it? Is there a minimum number of scripts you can do? etc. etc.

  2. CarolineEm

    CarolineEm New commenter

    I teach part-time and this year have a number of classes in yrs 11 and 12 who will be finished by mid-May. With the implementation of the workload agreement I may not have much invigilation to do. With such a light timetable I was wondering whether or not to become an examination marker - and if so whether to look at SATS, English GCSE, English A/S or Media A/S, all of which I teach.

    Anyone got any thoughts on this? How much time does it take up? When do scripts have to be in by? How local do preparation meetings tend to be? Do you get paid for them? How much, financially, are you better off at the end of it? Is there a minimum number of scripts you can do? etc. etc.

  3. ilovesooty

    ilovesooty Star commenter

    I did it for the first time last year, but had to pack in early when I broke my finger. I found it demanding, though interesting, and am planning to start with minimum scripts and ask for more as I speed up.

    You get paid for local training meetings plus travel expenses. I had to travel 30 miles for mine.

    You'll be marking English, if I remember rightly. GCSE is fine, though Higher Tier Lit, which I do, is the most time-consuming option. I gather that marking KS3 is awful.

    ElaineC is the expert on this.

  4. One benefit is the knock on effect it has on your own teaching. Going to marking meetings and finding out about what they were looking for, common misconceptions etc. helped no end. The workload was fine if one time managed - you really had to get 20something done a night even if you had got ahead the night before, and weekends disappeared entirely. Travelling to the meetings was the worst part - took the better part of two days on public transport, and there was often no need to waste time with such a lengthy lunch!
  5. As above, plus...How much time? Slower at thebeginning, Foundation has the advantage that some kids write very little(some papers are blank) and the disadvantage that there are more scripts that take ages to read, especially EAL students. I've heard 20 a day, although 10-15 on a school day at the beginning might be more realistic.

    When do they have to be in by? You get roughly 4 weeks to mark an allocation of approx 500 GCSE scripts from the board I do.

    Meetings? For SATs last year they changed the venue so I had to travel 150 miles but they did pay overnight stay, this year they've moved it back to 75 miles away. I think it's about £60 a day for the training. New markers are asked to do a prep day or arrive early for the main meeting.

    Haven't done A/S. GCSE pays about £3 script (more for Lit than Lang) so for 500 you come out with £1000ish. SATs paid a bit less butthis year they're going to split the marking into either Reading or Writing so we'll have to mark less - don't know what the new rate is. For GCSE you choose one paper, i.e Paper 1,Paper 2 or Lit.

    I think the minimum SATs allocation was 250 but that will probably change. GCSE is about 500. I think the board would let you do fewer if you asked, not sure.

    SATs (I'm waiting for someone to leap in and say they're not SATs but you know what I mean) marking last year was awful - having to give each piece of writing three marks was very tedious - it was ages before I could do that confidently without reading each piece three times.

    With SATs you just put a mark at the endof the paper; with GCSE you have to annotate with comments from the mark schemeand put a summative comment at the end.

    I mark for similar reasons to you - I have the time after that May half term. But,like portland6, I have found it very helpful when teaching to the exam. After seeing scripts from a school where the students have obviously covered the poems/novel/play thoroughly but haven't been taught what the mark scheme requires, it helps you to focus!

    If you have the time and support at home (marking takes over) if you have kids or other committments, go for it. BUT it is boring - imagine 300 'Describe the room you are sitting in' essays and stressful. Most us feel overwhelmed by the task at the beginning, even if we've marked before. Like childbirth though, we forget the pain quite quickly and do it again! Hope this helps!
  6. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Marge, are you trying to provoke a reaction from me? O.K. I'll rise to the bait.

    I've nothing at all against slang or nicknames in the right context but when teachers or examiners refer to our national tests by the "s-" word without irony, it gives the impression we don't know what we're talking about.

    True story: last year at Test training I said to the QCA lady in charge there "........., you'd make me a happy man if you could stop your minions calling them "Sats"." And her reply was, "You'd make me a happy lady if you could stop them." The Chief Lead Marker for English also hates the misnomer.

    Naturally, it never appears (neither does anything the letters might stand for) on any official Test Papers nor in any of the documentation. I didn't see the N.U.T. ballot Paper but I presume the Union had the sense not to call for a boycott of "Sats". If it had, even a 100% "yes" from 100% of the membership would have been totally meaningless.

    You can't boycott what doesn't happen to you.

  7. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Sorry, Caroline, rant over.

    I should advise you to try examining in some form and see how you like it. The job doesn't suit everyone and the pay isn't marvellous - the lady who cuts my hair only charges me £4 - 50 but probably gets more per hour than I do if it's just a marking job. (Contracts for team leading pay better.) If you're really interested in the assessment side and can mark at a reasonable speed, it will suit you. You won't be just one of the masses - you'll also be in a small team with a helpful Team Leader.

    If you don't have a full time day job, you'd probably find it not too onerous and manage what you're given fairly comfortably in the time allowed.

    Last year I completed KS3 Test marking in May and then did an "O" Level stint and also a G.C.S.E. one in June. But then, I was doing no classroom work at all at the time!

    The Test marking should work better this year, I think - and sound markers will probably be able to take on as much as they can cope with.

    With G.C.E. and G.C.S.E. you've also the chance of getting a contract for work in January - if you want more. At G.C.S.E. my preference is for Foundation Tier and for English ("Non- Literary etc.") but it's a matter of taste and inclination whether you look for Literature based work. (I don't think "A" Level pays any better, by the way.)

    If you don't want to take on a full allocation at the beginning, you might find your Board willing to give you less.

    Give it a go. You won't regret it. Even if you do it once and decide it's not for you, it's only a month out of your life time. And yes, you will learn things that will help you with the children you teach.

  8. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    P.S. A bit of advice if you do some KS3 marking. One of the differences compared to public examination work is that you're not actually required to employ a checker. Do so anyway! (The usual rate is 10% of the marking fee.) AQA say that checking money is included in what it offers to pay you. With public exams, you get it as a tax free expense.

    If you consider applying to OCR, check whether you know anyone who already does OCR English marking. If so, ask them to introduce you under the "Find a Friend" scheme. They might offer to split the fifty quid with you!
  9. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    P.P.S. (Apologies) Marge said "boring". Yes, it can be, but it can also be very stimulating and interesting. I've asked to mark Writing at KS3 this year because you get much more variety in the children's work.

    I can't say that I've really enjoyed assessing Shakespeare essays at this level. Not only do some classes all try to repeat the same taught essay, sometimes a whole school has been "taught" to put the same things. Answers on the Reading Booklet also tended to be very repetitive.

    Also, for most examiners, it's only stressful if the time pressure gets to you.
  10. Message for Markuss -
    I don`t know anyone who doesn`t call them that. Why does it bother you? Join the Pedantics thread if you are so bothered. Stop nit picking about what the ruddy tests are called. Until it stops full stop I think people will and can call them what they bloody like.
    jacqablett likes this.
  11. CarolineEm

    CarolineEm New commenter

    Many thanks to you all for all the info. I think the analogy to childbirth is a good one - at the minute I really can't believe it will be THAT bad, but just like giving birth, once I'm in the midst of it, I'm sure it will be!

    I still can't decide WHAT to mark though!

    Markuss - no, I don't mind you having a rant - in the nicest possible way, I'm kind of used to you expressing your feelings on this one! You may be interested to know that the QCA web-site confirms that, although often referred to as SATS these are actually National Curriculum Tests. However, a search for SATS on their web-site does come up with 15 references in official documentation - I guess the term is here to stay!
  12. Caroline, it depends on what you like! The SATs marking is, I think, more tedious. As Markuss says, it'll probably be easier this year because they're asking you to mark either reading or writing. I still have some Year 11s at this time so I'm glad when they're finished and I can start the GCSE scripts.

    I have heard that one board no longer needs markers for Paper 1 (unseen media and non fiction). This has the reputation for being easier to mark because the mark scheme is more detailed.

    I've marked poetry and writing and some of this is more enjoyable. I like reading the essays that advise and explain but struggle with the descriptions. Partly because of the titles, in fairness to the students.

    This year I'm going to mark Literature to widen my experience - I was told (by the board) that this was the paper that it's most difficult to get markers for. It follows that it is more likely you'll be able to get extra scripts if you want them. Last year two of my friends marking Paper 1 couldn't get extra scripts.

    I'd go for something you're comfortable with - for example with the SATs reading you could get answers for all three plays. I put off changing to Lit until I'd taught all the novels.

    Finally, there is a difference in rates. If you look on the Board websites they don't quote figures but if you e-mail them they'll tell you rates, allocations and training venues. It might be worth doing this before you make your decision. Like visiting the midwife for those ante-natals I suppose!
  13. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    May be here to stay as a nickname but won't be official because of copyright if not because of the sheer sense that our tests are simply not "s-anything a-anything t-anythings" (and never have been). The misnomer may appear less in print if and when the American tests are used over here for University entrance.

    As far as rates go, Caroline, I don't think it makes that much difference (as an hourly rate) which you do.

    As Marge said, for Literature based papers there could be more prior reading to do and the preparation fee may not be that advantageous. But then, if you like reading youngster's responses to that kind of reading, then go for it. If you then find that it doesn't suit you, you can ask to switch to something else another time.

    If marking's a job that suits you - whether it's NCTs or whether it's public exams, you'll always be in demand. Unfortunately the shortage of willing and able markers does not seem to be significantly raising the basic fees paid!

    Last year, though, the AQA offered significantly higher pay to markers willing to take on extra allocations of Key Stage 3 Test scripts. In June they paid well for people to be put up in Guildford and mark, mark, mark.

    Offer yourself to the Boards, Caroline, and take your pick. You won't regret it.

  14. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Oops! "..."youngsters"..."
  15. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    I give up!

  16. Please, please, please Caroline and marge apply for Eng. Lit. Higher tier - we really need you.

    I marked SATs this year and whilst I'll do it again, I felt so please when the GCSE started as it was so interesting in comparison to the tedium of SATS and its awful mark scheme.

    Literature is demanding but it is well paid. Last year peope were paid £3.46 for the first 300 scripts they marked, then 1 and a half times that for the next 200 then double script fee for all scripts over 500. Officially you have 3 weeks in which to do it and the average allocation is 500 though you can ask for more or fewer scripts. In practice if you're satisfactory you may well be asked to carry on marking beyond the 3 weeks. Of course, the same conditions and pay aren't guaranteed to be the same this year.

    You start off very slowly ( even after doing this for 10 years at the beginning of the marking period I take half an hour per script) but once you've grasped the standard it's possible to mark between 4 and 6 scripts an hour. Some people say they can do 8 but I'm not one of them!

    If your timetable is going to be so light then it shouldn't be too difficult for you Caroline. It has a good effect on your subsequent results too. In my last permanent job I got 69% of my class at A*- C compared to my colleagues' 50%. I'm convinced this was because of my exam marking experience.

    If you need to know more email me at elaine@3-c.coop.
  17. Elaine - did you type your address correctly? Tried to send you a message but can't send!
  18. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter


    I think I once read that you don't like people being aggressive in this Staff Room. So why turn nasty with me?

    I did explain "why" if you'd actually read what I'd written. But here it is again. Many years ago teachers such as myself were trained in the concept of "sats". (Were you in teaching then?) However, they were scrapped in 1992.

    Years later National Curriculum Tests came along and teachers who'd slept through the training (or Heads or journalists who'd picked up the acronym with no understanding of its meaning) gave the tests the wrong name - which caught on through teachers being too tired to think.

    Don't want an argument with you, t, just explaining why the "s" word makes us look silly. O.K.?

  19. gemxgcw

    gemxgcw New commenter

    Hi Caroline,

    I'm also interested in doing some marking myself! I was just wondering where you find the information about doing it. I'm currently doing my 4th year of my BA(Ed) and due to graduate in JUNE!!!! If I did mark anything then I would be doing the KS2 assessment tasks. Could you possibly point me in the right direction, PLEASE,




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