GCSE English Language: a guide to confident marking

Friday 12 May 2017

We know that effective response marking is integral to your teaching.

Each AQA sample assessment paper has its own detailed mark scheme. We’ve put together these general guidelines to help you to understand the markers of progression, and apply a mark scheme confidently and consistently.

Mark schemes: levels of response

We use levels of response mark schemes. Start by determining a level first, and then a mark.

A mark scheme is largely a sequence of grids below a question. The grids work from level 1 at the lower end of the ability range to level 4 at the top end. The left column in each grid contains key words to show this.

View sample mark scheme: Paper 2 from our first set of SAMs

Skills descriptors

If you look inside each of the grids, you'll notice a sequence of skills descriptors. The descriptors work like a ladder: from a bottom rung, to a top. The lower level descriptor is perhaps the most straightforward skill in the mark scheme, and the descriptors progress through that grid to the more challenging aspect of that skill.

A student should demonstrate all of the skills listed in order to achieve full marks at a particular level.

If a student gets full marks at a particular level, check to see whether they’re also demonstrating any skills from the next level up.

Mark descriptors are not hurdles

Often students will achieve some of the descriptors at one level, but not all of them. In this case, apply a best fit principle to the skills displayed.

Mark schemes are skills-driven, not content-driven. Make sure you annotate where skills are met – don't just tick them off. This will help you to:

  • identify precisely which skills are achieved
  • establish a fair mark for an answer
  • award the right mark.

Free marking walk-throughs on SKM

On our secure extranet, you can watch short marking walk-throughs for questions 3, 4 and 5 on Paper 1, and questions 2 and 4 on Paper 2. These videos were recorded for our second of four sets of sample assessment materials (SAMs).

Once you’ve logged in, navigate to Secure Key Materials > GCSE > English > English Language (new specification) > Mark Scheme Engagement Materials.

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