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There is currently limited empirical evidence available to allow a proper comparison of the relative merits of whole-script marking and item-level marking.
However, the limited research carried out to date suggests that item-level marking seems to be at least as reliable as whole-script marking, and under some conditions is likely to be more reliable than whole-script marking.
Specifically, item-level marking may:
remove the ‘halo effect’ that means examiners carry forward preconceived ideas about the level of a student’s understanding based on his or her answers to previous unrelated items
eliminate the most extreme cases of poor marking reliability, which impact significantly upon public confidence, although it is unlikely to make it more likely that a student will receive the correct grade
improve the reliability of marking, particularly for the highest performing students
It is suggested that further research in this area is needed.