My experience as a Pearson Edexcel GCSE English examiner

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My summer 2019 exam series started last Christmas when I received an email from Edexcel asking if I’d like to be an examiner again this year...

Being offered contracts so far in advance (including all the key dates) makes it easier to plan ahead and balance school work with exam marking and family life – particularly if you’re a planner, like me! A few weeks before the exam I was contacted by the English Assessment Team with details of the marking software, information about online training resources that are available for examiners and a project plan for that particular exam paper. All of the dates were laid out clearly so, again, I knew exactly when the important deadlines were. Approximately a week prior to each exam, I was contacted by my Team Leader who checked in on a more personal and supportive level to ensure that I was prepared and had everything I needed for the standardisation training day.

Standardisation ran very smoothly -  the English team were all very clear and on hand to solve any issues; the use of live text chat meant that it was easy to ask Team Leaders a question, and it was nice to hear a variety of voices when going through the different questions. What I particularly like is the time taken to discuss reasons why a mark is awarded and to what extent an Assessment Objective has been met. It also allowed me to work out if I was being too harsh or too generous. The Principal Examiners for both Language and Literature made it clear that we are looking to find what we can reward, not what could be better. For me, it’s important to have that refocus on the positive; it has really helped to make my predicted grades for my own students so much more accurate.

"It was done in a really supportive and constructive way, with the focus being on the fact that we as a team must all mark to the same standard, as accurately as possible."

Once the marking was underway, my Team Leader was my main source of support, offering encouragement, guidance on queries and useful reminders of marking progress. So much importance is placed on the quality of marking and all examiners need to submit a first sample of marking to to be checked by their Team Leader before they are allowed to begin marking live scripts. My particular marking challenge this year was the ‘evaluate’ question on Paper 1 of GCSE English Language. My marking was a little erratic in the first sample of responses that I marked but my Team Leader, Jelena, was quick to pick this up and offer some extra guidance. It was done in a really supportive and constructive way, with the focus being on the fact that we as a team must all mark to the same standard, as accurately as possible. After taking on board feedback from my Team Leader I was able to adjust my marking accordingly. 

From then on, the main marking began. A big improvement for me in this year’s exam series has been the electronic marking platform we use, Epen2. The performance peek feature was particularly helpful in being aware of how accurate my marking was. Even the little details like the visual graphic of the marking progress line was so helpful in monitoring my progress – there was a real sense of achievement in seeing the green line pass each of the marking milestones. 

Being an examiner whilst teaching leads me to reflect as to how much it’s done for my own professional development. I have a more in-depth knowledge of the assessments and I get to see how different students across the country have been taught to tackle exam questions. This has been my fourth year as an examiner for GCSE English Literature and my second for GCSE English Language; It’s always a pleasure working with such a well organised and efficient team at Edexcel.  After working so hard during an intense period, I’m now looking forward to a well earned summer break! 

This blog was written by Helen Atkinson, a Pearson Edexcel GCSE English examiner.

Find out more about the teaching support available for  Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) English Literature and Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) English Language.

Interested in becoming a Pearson Edexcel GCSE or A level Assessment Associate? Learn more.