Research and analysis

Qualititive research study on quality of marking

A 2013 study to understand the attitudes of teachers and examiners to the marking process in GCSE and A level exams.


Ofqual Quality of Marking Qualitative Research Study

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


Examiner findings

Overall, examiners in this study believed that external exam marking is accurate. Examiners tended to describe themselves and other examiners as conscientious individuals, doing a job which they believe carries profound responsibility.

Senior examiners observed that the system of marking in England is in radical transition, moving from face to face standardisation of examiners and pen and paper marking (systems that had been in place for decades) to online standardisation and on-screen marking.

There was strong concern among examiners about the increasing adoption of online standardisation, particularly amongst examiners of papers including questions requiring extended responses from students and subjective judgements from examiners.

Teacher findings

Teachers believed the overall quality of marking of external exams in England is high. They perceived only a small level of error and believed this was largely accounted for by the fact that the marking of some subjects is by nature subjective.

The teachers most likely to disagree that marking was generally accurate were:

  • those in schools (mostly selective state and independent schools) with the greatest pressure for students to perform at the highest level

  • teachers of subjects such as English, history, psychology and sociology, where papers include questions requiring extended responses (worth 30 to 40 marks) and where a high level of individual examiner judgment is necessary

  • teachers affected by lower grades than they expected in the 2012 GCSE English results

Teachers in non-selective maintained schools and less experienced teachers were more likely to hold positive views about the quality of marking than more experienced teachers and teachers in selective state and independent schools.

Published 14 February 2014