AQA aims to boost marking quality with 'real time' updates for examiners

Tuesday 6 May 2014

A new initiative that could help improve the way that GCSE and A-level papers are marked is being piloted this month by education charity and leading provider of qualifications, AQA.   

The pilot, which will involve online seminars led by experts, is aimed at ensuring that examiners are given 'real time' information about how students nationally have tackled the exam before they mark their exam papers.

AQA sets the papers for around half of all GCSEs and A-levels. Every year, nearly two million students sit AQA exams and we mark more than seven million exam scripts. 

Examiners, who are usually qualified teachers, are trained rigorously throughout the year by AQA to make sure they mark consistently to the required standard. Shortly before they start marking exam papers each year, examiners are carefully briefed about the specific paper and the marking guidance or mark scheme they will use. The briefing is carried out by the senior examiner who will also monitor examiners' performance.

This year, under the pilot, examiners will also be invited to a webinar, hosted by the Principal Examiner, the leading assessment expert in a particular subject. At this online event, they will be able to ask questions and get the latest update on trends examiners are seeing in students' scripts, as well as any issues that have been picked up as a result of how students have responded. The timing of the webinars means that the Principal Examiner will be able to use real examples from answers given by students on the actual paper being marked at the time to show examiners what to look out for.

Andrew Hall, Chief Executive at AQA, said: "We understand that getting the right result is crucial for both students and teachers. There are various parts to this. It starts with the design of the qualification and it is vital that the assessment design, question papers and the mark scheme, all work well together. Once you have done that, you need to hire and train the best examiners to make it happen.

"The way we train examiners to mark papers at the moment works well, but we are always looking for ways to improve. Research from CERP, our cutting-edge research centre, tells us that giving more examiners access to the Principal Examiner to get guidance directly from them, can help encourage an even more consistent approach to marking across a wider group of examiners. This ultimately can help improve the quality of our marking and is something that is a real focus for us at AQA."  

The pilot will start later this month and will cover GCSE Religious Studies and A-level English Literature. Results from the pilot will be evaluated later this year.