Types of marking scheme

To help ensure the reliability of your assessment, the marking scheme should be rigorous and consistently applied across the board. There are several different types which you might be able to discuss with your School:

  • An unstructured marking scheme (example) provides the marker with opportunity for free comment. A risk is that, since the criteria for marking are not clearly stated, use of this type of scheme can lead to ‘impressionistic’ marking. This format is often used when marking reflective or essay type work. If free comment by the assessor is important, you may wish to consider a semi-structured scheme which uses general headings as in the unstructured scheme but lists the criteria which the assessor should consider in making an assessment.
  • A fully-structured marking scheme (example) allocates a portion of marks to each of the criteria to be considered by the marker.
  • You may be involved in assessment for assignments submitted collaboratively by groups of students and / or which could require student input of different types within the same overall assessment.  This combined marking scheme (example) incorporates a detailed marking scheme for a briefly-annotated references list, along with a more general scheme for a verbal group presentation.

Where an exercise requires one word or short answers it is a good idea to prepare marker’s notes which set out the correct answers and provide information on how the correct answer has been obtained. Such notes will ensure consistency in the marking and annotation of student exercises both for a single marker and, more especially, where several staff working independently are marking the same exercise. The marker should annotate incorrect answers with the correct response and include a note on the best method of achieving the correct answer. Alternatively you may wish to prepare a model answer with the correct answers and methodology, to distribute to students when their submissions are returned.

Remember that any criteria included should be aligned with the learning objectives of the module and also aligned with the specific assessment. This means that you cannot assess anything which has not explicitly been stated to the students as being a requirement. So, for example, you cannot mark students down for spelling and grammar mistakes if this doesn’t feature in the assessment criteria.

Provide students with the marking sheet and discuss its contents with them before the assessment is set to help them understand the criteria for the assessment and provide transparency to the assessment process. If there may be confusion over what is expected by the student in terms of content or presentation, you may wish to design model answers which can be handed out prior to or at the same time as the assessment. Obviously these should be on a topic unrelated to the actual exercise. Some Schools, with permission from those involved, have made available examples of student work from a previous year along with the comments and marks from the assessor.


In the next section we look at learning technologies which may help you with assessment.