Exam marking errors

I’m pleased to hear that OCR have apologised for errors in adding up marks for GCSE and A-level papers last year. It doesn’t seem right that the whistleblower remains suspended, but I don’t know the details so perhaps I shouldn’t comment.

When I first heard about this latest case of human error in exam marking, I was amazed that we are still reliant on human arithmetic (though I know that addition of scores is meant to be checked by someone else – and that payment for this is included in the payment of GCSE and A-level markers). However I suppose that if markers were required to enter their scores into a computerised system of some sort (to enable the computer to check the arithmetic, or to do the arithmetic in the first instance) there would still be transcription errors – and it would take time and so slow down the marking process.

The important point is that, however much their work is checked and however much they are encouraged not to make mistakes and/or punished for making them (according to The Guardian, some examiners have had their contracts terminated), human markers are fallible. They are fallible when marking, they are fallible when adding scores. I’m a human, I make mistakes. The sooner we are honest with ourselves and admit that, the better.

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