Ofqual considers alternate marking methods


Exam watchdog Ofqual has revealed it is considering whether alternatives to traditional forms of exam marking represent a viable approach.

Of five pieces of research into marking that have just been released, one focused on whether rank-ordering candidates compares favourably to traditional marking methods using a marking scheme.

The results led the regulator to suggest that further research into other forms of marking could be worthwhile.

“Our examination system values the use of extended response questions in assessing important higher-level skills,” Ofqual said.

“But these responses are harder to mark than shorter, or more constrained, question types. This can impact upon the validity of the rank order of candidate work.”

Instead, the regulator has suggested it was “considering rank-ordering students’ work by means other than marking”.

The two methods considered as alternatives are ‘paired comparative judgement’ and ‘rank ordering’ which involves placing longer answers in a ranked order.

Both of the methods were then compared with traditional marking methods where a mark scheme is used.

Comparative judgement sees teachers look at two scripts before deciding which they think is better and feeding that information into a computer algorithm.

The process is repeated over and over, and the computer algorithm then ranks scripts in order of quality, according to the teacher’s judgement.

“The research finds that the three methods produce rank orders that are very similar,” Ofqual reported. “This work indicates that more research in this area could be worthwhile.”

It comes as the wider research found that marking consistency varies across subjects, with the exams watchdog declaring that there is “room for improvement” in marking consistency.