O&M Classic: Grading Essay Exams

17 December 2007 at 12:22 pm 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

This classic post from last year deserves another go.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Teaching.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chihmao Hsieh  |  17 December 2007 at 1:11 pm

    One lesson I learned as a TA during PhD studies has to do with grading essay exams, and it actually has just as much to do with properly structuring the essay questions.

    What I do is structure each graded question such that it is out of 5 points. Thus a 5/5 is a perfect score, a 4/5 is 80% and a 3/5 is 60%. I read through a student’s answer, and it’s pretty easy for me to assess which of the 3 grades to give for that question. That is, generally speaking, before I read their answers, I assume they will get a 4/5 and then as I read I look for reasons to drop it to a 3 or raise it to a 5. If I hesitate for more than 5-10 seconds after reading an answer, I give it a 4.

    So it takes a truly complete outstanding answer to get a 5, and a terrible, baseless or irrelevant answer to get a 3.

    I curve up and let that adjustment do the rest of my grading.

    For obvious reasons, students like the system. And for other obvious reasons, I do too.

  • 2. Steve Phelan  |  17 December 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I have a similar system, except each essay is out of 10.

    10 = extremely rare – gave me an insight
    9 = generally correct answer and well structured
    8 = default – they sort of have the right idea but don’t express it well or make minor errors
    7 = at least something they said was correct
    6 = basically the wrong answer but some redeeming features
    5 or less = were they even in the class?

  • 3. Chihmao Hsieh  |  17 December 2007 at 5:02 pm

    That’s a pretty fine-tuned version indeed. I’d rather just ask twice as many exam questions, haha!

  • 4. Steve Phelan  |  18 December 2007 at 12:06 am

    Sigh, then the students would just be twice as wrong :-)

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