The reliability of marking of general certificate of secondary education scripts: mathematics and English

This study investigated the consistency with which marks were awarded to scripts during the summer 1994 examinations in mathematics and English. It was demonstrated that the reliability of marking of mathematics scripts was extremely high. The consistency of marking in English was notably lower, although on the whole it appeared to be at least as good, if not better, than in previous studies. As a consequence of inconsistency in marking, the adjustment of Assistant Examiners’ marks is not uncommon for English. An investigation into this process demonstrated its validity. In comparison with mathematics, should we conclude that the examination boards are failing in their assessment of English? An alternative argument was proposed, claiming that any examining body must trade reliability of assessment against considerations of validity and cost‐effectiveness. Although problems of inconsistency arise in English, they are largely inevitable as long as we value the current assessment formats.

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