How to Grade Essay Exams

16 December 2006 at 4:25 pm 6 comments

| Peter Klein |

As students relax and return home for the Christmas holiday, we professors are stuck with grading — not always the most pleasant task. I’m holed up this weekend with two stacks of essay exams. As an experienced teacher, my grading technique is a finely honed skill. For newcomers, however, here is a primer on grading essay exams from Daniel Solove. It covers all the key points — the importance of the toss, the bottom-higher-grade theory, teetering, exam protrusion, and separation. I wish I’d known all this when I was just starting out! (Via Christine Hurt.)

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Teaching.

CCSM 2006 Make and Buy II

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. datruss  |  16 December 2006 at 6:50 pm

    I think more than one of my profs graded me as your primer suggests. Thanks for the laugh,

  • […] I finished most of my marking for this term weeks ago, but a stack of late essays is still staring balefully at me, while insistent student emails keep peppering my inbox: when, they all want to know, will I mark all the essays that came in late? It is in this mood that I contemplate the marking recommendations provided by Concurring Opinions (via Organisations and Markets). While designed with exams in mind, I believe I can see some potential to modify this technique for essays: […]

  • 3. arsenalist  |  17 December 2006 at 5:05 pm

    You mean you actually read all those essays?

    I remember when I was in university, some harder courses had a rule that if on an exam you honestly had no idea what the answer was, you just wrote down exactly the following: “I don’t know the answer to this question”, and they would give you 20% on the question.

  • 4. C. Grammich  |  18 December 2006 at 4:57 pm

    A friend (I won’t say where) once told me the key to grading was to ingest the exact mix of booze/drugs/whatever as the students obviously had coarsing through their veins when writing . . .

  • 5. Rafe Champion  |  17 December 2007 at 9:39 pm

    You could throw them down the stairs and grade them according to the level where they end up.
    Jokes aside, when I was tutoring at the Uni of Sydney a few years ago there was a directive that there had to be a limit on the proportion of people in the class scored High Distinctions and Distinctions, presumably to control the padding of marks to get more scholarships for students doing higher degree courses. That was tough in a class with a lot of smart and highly motivated mature age students.

  • 6. Bo  |  18 December 2007 at 5:57 am

    Here in Denmark we can only wish for this kind of directive. According to the new grading system, 10% of students (supposedly across all of Denmark and perhaps over a 5 year period) should be awarded the highest grade! If this is not the case, we have either set the expectations too high (and thus need to reduce the difficulty and/or expectations) or graded too hard. While I am still struggling to understand this new system, which came complete with a new scale that starts with the grade -3 (how is that for sending a message!), and which seemingly does not match anything (although according to the powers-to-be, this scale is fully compatible with the rest of the world?), I am left with a bunch of reports that must have been written by “the other 90%”..

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