Whole-class marking: KS4 mock exam

Timely, useful, sustainable feedback

We have been trying to develop ways of giving feedback to students that is timely, and which aids students’ progression, but (perhaps most importantly) is sustainable in the longterm for a fulltime teacher. In their guidance paper on marking and feedback, the ASCL reminds us that time is a teacher’s most precious commodity, and that the purpose of feedback is to improve student learning; marking is not for parents.

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Suggestions from the ASCL

We developed feedback ideas at Journal Club last year (here and here) and a focus group discussed feedback ideas at the end of last year. At the moment, a group of teachers are gathering together practical ideas for colleagues to try as part of our new CPD programme.

Mock exam- heavy marking load!

I gave my triple science group two mocks in the summer. I didn’t think they took their first one seriously enough, and I wanted to give them the chance to take the “actual paper” that their friends took (on the non-linear course) almost in parallel with them.

However, this meant I had set myself up for a great deal of extra marking and feedback. This is the method I used to help them learn from their mocks, and progress. It’s based on the style of feedback I have been using in KS5 tests. It includes draws on ideas such as those explained here (from Toby French), here (by Jo Facer) and here (by Mrs Humanities). This recent post by Ben Newmark is a really good summary of these kinds of ideas.

Mistakes, improvement points, misconceptions

As I went through and marked students’ papers, I made notes of common mistakes, points for improvement, and misconceptions. I noted these on a blank copy of the exam paper, and gave each note a numerical code:


6-mark question. Some students are STILL describing things as “environmentally friendly”. (This is not a good thing!)


Sometimes students just need a nudge to learn something .

As I marked students’ individual papers, I made a note of any marks they’d gained/ lost as usual, but then made a note of any key feedback points using a numerical code in the margin, as described here.


This student needs to recall the products of incompete combustion.

This didn’t preclude the option of adding specific comments to students’ papers, when necessary.


This student planned a 6-mark question before answering it.


Sometimes, students need reminding that their handwriting should be legible!

Verbal feedback

I find one of the simplest (and possibly most effective) ways of giving feedback is to just talk to pupils as I give their papers back. The advantage of this relatively pain-free approach was that I had marked the papers the day before I gave them back, and could usually remember enough to give them an overall comment. I set the class a task to get on with and gave out the papers.

“That was a really strong paper, well done! Your use of scientific language was particularly good this time.”

“You gave one of the best answers to the 6-mark questions because you thought about the impact each gas has on the atmosphere.”

“What happened? You really struggled with the hydrocarbons question?” (the advantage of asking this in person was that the student could reply to my question, and I could help them there and then!)

Whole class feedback

After pupils had read through their paper, and discussed their answers with their friends, I went through the paper question by question, focussing on key points. Every time one of these points related to a particular marking code, I flagged this up to students. They then made a note of the things I’d said in their books.

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What I find particularly interesting about this is that students have taken onboard my feedback, as I went through the paper, and put it into their own words. Sometimes they do have a slightly different take on things.

For example:

Point 1: the first student just points out that they missed out a question, whereas the second student writes an actual instruction: “check that you answer every Q”.

Follow-up tasks

In this particular exam, there were two questions that were answered pretty badly across the board so, in addition to individual tasks based on their individual feedback/ codes, the whole class re-drafted these questions for homework (using some pointers from the lesson, and a structured sheet).

(post written by NKA)


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