Student access to marked examination scripts

I’m currently waiting for the last couple of scripts from my Physics of the Early Universe examination to arrive so I can begin the task of marking them. The examination was yesterday morning, and it’s now Friday afternoon, so I don’t know why it takes so long for the scripts to find their way to the examiner, especially when marking is on such a tight schedule. I’m away next week (in Ireland) so if I don’t get papers by this afternoon they won’t be marked until I return. The missing two are from students sitting in alternative venues, but I don’t see why that means they take over 24 hours  to get to the marker.

(By the way,  `script’ refers to what the student writes (usually in a special answer book), as opposed to the `paper’ which is the list of questions to be answered or problems to be solved in the script.)

Anyway, while I’m waiting for the missing scripts to arrive I thought I’d mention that here in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University we have a system whereby students can get access to their marked examination scripts.  This access is limited, and for the purpose of getting feedback on where they went wrong, not for trying to argue for extra marks. The students can’t take the scripts away, nor can they make a copy, but the can take notes which will hopefully help them in future assessments. There’s a similar provision in place in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, where I will be relocating full-time in July, based around a so-called `Consultation Day’.

When I was Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Sussex University I tried to introduce such a system there, but it was met with some resistance from staff who thought this would not only cause a big increase in workload and but also lead to  difficulties with students demanding their marks be increased. That has never been the experience here at Cardiff: only a handful take up the opportunity and those that do are told quite clearly that the mark cannot be changed.  Last year I had only one student who asked to go through their script. I was happy to oblige and we had a friendly and (I think) productive meeting.

If I had my way we would actually give all students their marked examination scripts back as a matter of routine. The fact that we don’t is no doubt one reason for relatively poor performance in student satisfaction surveys about assessment and feedback. Obviously examination scripts have to go through a pretty strict quality assurance process involving the whole paraphernalia of examination boards (including external examiners), so the scripts can’t be given back immediately but once that process is complete there doesn’t seem to me any reason why we shouldn’t give their work, together with any feedback written on it,  back to the students in its entirety.

I have heard some people argue that under the provisions of the Data Protection Act students have a legal right to see what’s written on the scripts – as that constitutes part of their student record – but that’s not my point here. My point is purely educational, based on the benefit to the student’s learning experience.

Anyway, I don’t know how widespread the practice is of giving examination scripts back to students so let me conduct a totally unscientific poll. Obviously most of my readers are in physics and astronomy, but I invite anyone in any academic discipline to vote:

And, of course, if you have any further comments to make please feel free to make them through the box below!


4 Responses to “Student access to marked examination scripts”

  1. Opinionated Moron Says:

    I was new to marking assignments 10yrs back.
    When I started marking there were some really excellent answer scripts. However, I was also
    surprised to find many scripts that are identical to each other
    and sometimes they even make exactly the same mistakes.
    The universities depend on student (customer) satisfaction
    so most students typically get away with such practices.

  2. Opinionated Moron Says:

    I don’t come from UK education system and I never had a proper training about what do or don’t count as a
    misconduct for assignments/exam scripts here.
    In many cases, I was told these problems were from standard textbooks which they all follow and making same mistakes are not that unlikely.

  3. Gary Mathlin Says:

    We’ve been doing this for sometime here in the Physics Department at the University of Bath. As the Director of Studies I do the whole thing. I set aside a whole day for this twice a year. Any student who has taken one or more ‘PHXXX’ papers can request a viewing and is then given a 15 minute slot on the day. I can accommodate up to six students at a time in my office. The last time I did this in March I had 78 students book to see their papers and 71 actually turn up. It is quite hard work but the majority of students seem to get something from it.

    Most come to see where they had been marked down having left the exam hall thinking they’d done well. The usual reason for the the lower than expected mark is not reading the question rubric properly. ‘Derive in detail’ is not the same as ‘state’.

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