OCR response to HMC allegations about exam marking in the Sunday Times

04 May 2014

OCR is disappointed that the HMC has chosen to add to the stress of both private and state school students at this critical time. Senior members of the exam board have discussed these issues at the highest levels with HMC, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and SSAT (The Schools Network), and briefed them on the measures that have been put in place to remedy them. These discussions took place earlier this year before the exam session – which is the proper time for them.

OCR acknowledges that there are challenges around the marking of A Level History. However, it remains the reality that essay-based, ‘constructive response’ History, that enables candidates to really think and get credit for moving beyond the course, requires a judgement-based approach to marking that is necessarily less certain than the results of exams based simply on factual recall or multiple choice, machine marked questions. This affects all exam boards. OCR has already shared with the HMC the range of actions it is taking to improve History marking.

These include: 

  • Extending the use of online marking technology, which acts as an early warning system on erratic marking, to History
  • Setting up a special pilot recruiting local schools, including HMC, to act as hubs for local clusters designed to enhance the quality and accuracy of assessment across all exams
  • Making improvements to the online marking experience so it is more user-friendly for examiners
  • Enhancing monitoring of examiners through the research team using additional statistical methods, such as comparing the average mark of an individual examiner against a group average
  • Putting in place enhanced and random checks on marking performance of all examiners and, where necessary, further reviews at the end of the marking process 
  • Introducing additional checks to the standardisation process. Standardisation is the training that examiners undertake before they start marking papers to ensure they are all marking to the same standard
  • Launching an online social network community for its examiners to encourage the exchange of assessment experience and expertise
  • Setting up an examiner virtual learning environment to deliver assessment-related training remotely
  • Inviting HMC to support OCR’s efforts to improve quality of marking by asking HMC members to encourage their staff to become markers – so far with disappointing results

“Grandstanding of this sort has no place during the exam season,” said OCR Chief Executive Mark Dawe. “It is unfair on the students and erodes confidence in the system. At this stage of the year, a more helpful contribution would be for HMC members themselves to take some responsibility for improving the system by encouraging their teaching staff to get involved with marking.”