Some General Things About Marking

Whether you're marking fourth-year English final term papers or first-year calculus problem sets, these tips will help you to save time, be consistent and keep your students' work safe:

Before...

  • Make or obtain a rubric (marking scheme) and also get an idea of what constitutes an A, B, C, etc. Your faculty may have specific criteria for this last point.
  • Find out if your marks need to adhere to a specific distribution.
  • Be clear on what to do in “problem” situations, such as late assignments, assignments that contain plagiarism or assignments that students want remarked. Make sure all TAs follow the same procedures in these situations.
  • Estimate roughly how long you will spend marking each assignment and make sure that you set aside enough time to carefully mark the complete set.
  • Make your expectations clear to students – show them the rubric and maybe show them examples of different papers and where they would fall in the marking scheme. Explain to them late penalties and policies for appealing grades, as well as campus resources that they might find useful (such as the Effective Writing Centre).
  • Consider asking students to put their name on the back of the essay or perhaps only on the title page so that it is easy for you to mark with complete anonymity.

...during...

  • Choose one paper for all TAs to read individually and then get together as a group and discuss how you would mark it. Consider marking as a group so that you can compare assignments and grades as you go.
  • Consider skimming through all of your papers and making stacks of what you think will be the A papers, B papers, etc.
  • When marking tests and assignments, do all of one question before starting the next.
  • Read five or six papers before you being grading so that you get an idea of the general quality level.
  • Do not correct every grammatical and spelling error. It is sufficient to correct a few and then comment that more exist and in the future the student needs to address this.
  • Never be sarcastic or mean and try to start comments by addressing what was good and then moving on to what should be changed/improved. Be careful to comment on the paper and not the person.
  • Take a break! Marking is hard work and you become less reliable and if you are tired or burned out.
  • Consider typing comments onto a computer and making a file for each student. This keeps your comment legible and allows you to copy and paste common comments.
  • Be specific in your comments and avoid using big words and jargon. Consider using a marking code or shorthand (see the MLA style guide, Turabian style guide, the APA style guide, or the Canadian Press Style guide for examples).
  • To avoid embarassing spills, do not drink or eat over papers.

...and after!

  • Keep your records and the assignments in a safe (preferably locked) location until they can be returned. Back up your records.
  • Before you return assignments, talk to other TAs and the professor to compare notes and see if you experienced similar difficulties.
  • Quickly re-read two or three papers in each of your mark categories to ensure that you have remained consistent.
  • Unless you are planning on going through an assignment with your students in detail, wait until the end of class to hand it back. It will be much easier to keep everyone’s attention if they are not distracted by their assignment marks!
  • Share problem spots with the class, as well as relevant statistical information such as the mean, min and max marks and the overall distribution.
  • Consider imposing a “24-hour” rule, where students are not allowed to ask questions about their assignment for 24 hours after they get them back. This gives them time to revisit the rubric and gain some perspective.
  • Do not post grades in any way, shape, or form.