Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Low Marks on an Essay? Try a Different Examiner

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Low Marks on an Essay? Try a Different Examiner

Article excerpt

Academics asked to mark borderline 2:1 and 2:2 essays gave inconsistent grades. Jack Grove writes

Undergraduates awarded low scores for their work may receive top marks if they are graded by another academic, a study suggests.

As part of the study into inconsistent marking, 24 academics in four disciplines were recruited from 20 UK universities and each asked to mark five pieces of student work originally graded as borderline 2:1 or 2:2 by universities.

But many of the academics - who had all worked as external examiners - ended up awarding hugely different marks, according to the study published in the journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.

Some essays were given a first, while others received a third-class mark, says the study, which is titled "Let's stop the pretence of consistent marking: exploring the multiple limitations of assessment criteria".

Indeed, very few of the assessors in history, chemistry, nursing and psychology believed that the students' assignments were borderline, with only seven placing all the work within two adjacent grade bands.

Nine of the 20 assignments were also ranked both best and worst by different examiners, it says. Only one of the pieces was ranked the same by all six assessors, it adds.

The publication comes midway through a fundamental review of quality assurance by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, in which the role of external examining has again come under scrutiny.

Madeleine Atkins, its chief executive, has said that she supports external examining but wants to see the process strengthened. …

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