I am a GCSE examiner. I stumbled upon it once and discovered I enjoy doing it and, even more of a shock, I’m actually good at it. I mark a Language paper which means I did have to know ‘Of Mice and Men’ better than my own date of birth…but now we have the advent of British values, I think that may change. The other task is a written response to stimulus.
One of the things I love is being able to provide an audience for the teenagers who are sitting there. In the classroom the examiner seems to be a foreign, if not alien, entity. Although I mark for a different board to the one I teach; I find it useful to explain to the students a little bit of what I do. We have a caricature: ‘that retired teacher, sitting by candlelight at 11pm, marking your work’…then I go on to explain clarity of response or punchiness of quotes used appropriately. They laugh at my stereotype, but it cements the concept that their exam writing will have an audience, it’s not just written and thrown in the the bin. In fact someone more experienced than me will probably see it.
My principal examiner stated that we should approach our first response with the same energy as we approach our last. Every student demands the same scrutiny and support to do as well as their response deserves. It is a philosophy I love; ultimately, after all these years of teaching the students, it is heartwarming to see what they achieve when all other distractions are out of the way. For me, I have no idea if the candidate I have just marked is a ‘Jack the lad’ or a ‘Wall flower’, if they have produced a brilliant answer then they get rewarded, in some cases I have been on the receiving end of such surprising marks, and when we have checked, we have been pleasantly relieved.
It is tough with Government targets being used as a whip, but I console myself with the basic fact that so many young people work their hardest during the exams. They know what they want and I would like to think, that in my small role as an examiner, I can assist them in that desire.