7 Types of Exam Markers

I recently messed up a biochem exam. During the exam viewing session, I was appalled at how many marks I lost because of silly mistakes. This exam was marked based almost strictly on the final answer for each question. It didn’t matter that I got the process and 90% of question right – one silly mistake would throw off my final answer and blow the entire question. This experience reminded me about how important it is to take the marking of a question into consideration when formulating my answer.

It’s important to know how a grader grades the exam so that you can best display what you know. For example, you wouldn’t bother writing down all your thought process in the neatest hand possible for a multiple choice exam, would you?

Without further ado, here are the 7 types of exam makers.

1. The Nit Picker. 

This marker analyzes EVERYTHING. Every pen(cil) stroke, every errant dot. Detail-oriented and sharp-eyed, this makers will zone in on that tiny thing that you were unsure about and calls you out on it. Being specific is very important to this marker. He or she expects you to know definitions, applications, examples, and exceptions to all of the material. They also have little patience for people glossing over the parts they don’t know. He or she expect you to know everything, so you better deliver.

2.  The Process-oriented Thinker.

This marker cares about how you think. He or she wants to clearly see your thought process from A to B, taking into account any assumptions, theories, or definitions used. I had one physics prof who didn’t really care what numbers were plugged in as long as the equations were derived and manipulated correctly. In that case, I spent a lot less time crunching numbers (sometimes forgoing it all together) in favour of ensuring I used the right equations in the right way. Math, physics, and even chemistry (especially organic) often focus on the process, although that’s not always the case.

3. The Result Seeker.

This marker just cares about the final answer, not how you got there. Multiple choice and true and false questions are perfect examples of this type of marking scheme. This marker wants to see your (correct) answer bolded or otherwise nicely presented so her or she can find it quickly. The biochemistry exam I messed up what very much this type of marking.

4. The Keywords Scanner. 

This marker scans everything you write for keywords. To this marker, using the right words in the right context is most important. If you write “an area with a lot of trees”, they might mark it wrong if they were looking for “forest”. Biology, psychology, and some social sciences rely heavily on this marking scheme. If you get an exam or a paper back and see check marks at specific words, your work was probably graded this way.

5. The Big Picture Dreamer. 

Everything is about the big picture for this marker. It doesn’t matter how you write it, as long as he or she can tell you’re on the right track, everything’s good. Sometimes questions may be very abstract. Lower level economics, higher level math and physics, and some social sciences mark like this. Biology, chemistry, math, psychology, English (or any other language) except for creative writing do not conform to this scheme. This is arguably the most subjective way to mark, so think like your prof (who probably made up the answer key).

6. The “No-tolerance for BS”-er. 

This marker only wants to see correct statements on your paper. He or she will subtract marks for every wrong statement you make. This can be problematic if the question asked for 3 examples, but you gave four and one was wrong. This marker might very well give you fewer marks than someone who did not write a wrong statement (even though you both have 3 correct examples).

7. The Benevolent Mark Giver. 

This marker is everyone’s favourite. He or she wants to give you marks, you just have to give him or her opportunities to do so. It doesn’t matter if you’re using keywords, writing down handwavy concepts, or emphasize the process – he or she will give you marks as long as you demonstrate you know something along the lines of what the question is asking. This marker is almost the polar opposite of the No-tolerance for BS-er. For example, if the question asks you to draw the process for forming the major product of something and you can’t remember which process was major and which was minor, draw both. This type of marker will give you some marks for drawing the right one (although they may take a couple of marks off for not selecting the right one as the major product). The No tolerance for BS-er would not give you any marks because you put something wrong down. So if you get a benevolent mark giver, write away. It’ll almost always be helpful.

Of course, these categories are slightly exaggerated and each exam may have different sections that are marked differently. Nonetheless, next time you come to a question, ask yourself “what am I being marked on?“. If it’s on results, skip the neat scripts and the detailed explanations and jump to the right answer. If it’s on keywords, make sure you use the correct words and be as specific as possible. If it’s someone a nit picku… well… be really, really, really careful!

Good luck on your exams! 🙂


FYI: Citation Blues? Try Zotero!

FYI is a weekly column dedicated to presenting resources and other topics of interest to students.

Title: Zotero
Author: Center for History and New Media
Type of Resource: Firefox/Browser Plugin

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.

Link: http://www.zotero.org

Comments: Have you ever written a research paper only to realize you spent almost as much time on the citations as the paper itself? Have you ever tried to decipher your own handwriting about a source only to realize it’s utterly incomprehensible? Have you ever started to compile a “work cited” page the night before a paper is due, only to find that you didn’t have a crucial piece of bibliographical information? Fear no more, Zotero, a handy dandy Firefox Plugin, can solve these problems and more.

Functionally, Zotero is a bibliography maker (like EndNote) on crack. It stores and organizes your sources and generate bibliographies in various formats. It is also capable of “grabbing” bibliographic data directly from the pages you are viewing along with a searchable screenshot (so you can easily find where each piece of information came from). This is especially good with some article databases like Ebsco. Other functions include inserting citations in Word or Open Office, syncing across multiple computers, and sharing “libraries” of sources. One caveat is that it only works for Firefox, though a standalone version designed to work with other browsers is in the works.

I have used Zotero extensively both in and out of school, and I believe it is a vital part of any student or researcher’s tool-kit. And with its highly affordable price tag (free!) there is no reason not to take it for a spin!

(Click here if you need help getting started.)

Something Borrowed: 10 Things you Wish your Professor Had Told You

When I think of an idea for a blog post, I tend to google my topic to see what other people have said about it. Sometimes I find that no one else quite had my perspective, so I write about it. Other times, I find articles, blog posts, and even youtube videos that are so terrific I probably can’t do better. "Something Borrowed", a new weekly feature on this blog, aims to showcase those resources.


Title: 10 Things Your College Professor Won’t Tell You
Authors: Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman

URL: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/professors-guide/2010/03/03/10-things-your-college-professor-wont-tell-you.html

Everyone is into transparency these days. You would think you would know all there is to know when you get a college syllabus filled with course rules, policies, learning objectives, grading procedures, even snow policy. Boy, would you be wrong. The important stuff is what the prof will never tell you. Here are 10 examples…

Comments: This article is written by U.S. professors, so they should know what they are doing. However, I would caution against trying number 7 too often (or at all). Although professors are generally kind, they probably won’t think it’s fair that you should get extensions simply because you asked for one. As well, some professors care whether you attend class or not, others don’t. Therefore, number 5 really depends on your prof.

What NOT to do This Exam Season

Final Exams

Image "FINAL EXAMS .. Xp (( Explore 12 ))" courtesy of Flickr User Abdullah .. al - jowair, licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza and New Years are approaching rapidly, and with them comes the dreaded December Finals. With the plethora of exam advice on the web, I thought I’d take a different spin and write about what people should NOT do during this exam season.

1. Do not grind

This isn’t the dancing type of grind. No, an exam grind is when you leave your house at an ungodly hour, park yourself in a library, study for 12 hours, go home and sleep, and repeat this process until all your exams are done. Not only is this physically and mentally draining, but is also inefficient and ineffective. If you’re pushing yourself like this, your motivation – arguably one of the most important things during an exam season – will be lost. More importantly, most people doing the grind end up being distracted by something or take much longer to get through material. Your grade on an exam has nothing to do with how long you studied for it – only how effectively you’ve studied it. Set aside specific time and goals for what you’re studying and leave a least an hour or two a day for fun activities. This is NOT an argument for not studying, but rather an argument for studying smartly. Don’t grind, it’s a waste of time.

2. Do not give up all social events

Holing yourself up or ignoring all of your friends and family is a quick way of going insane. No matter how freaked out your are by the amount of work you have to get done, leave some time to go out and have fun. Watching a movie with friends, playing some sports, or even just having a quick conversation with someone will reenergize you. However, not all activities are created equal…

3. Do not take drugs or alcohol (or smoke if possible)

Avoid binge drinking after feeling like you’ve bombed an exam and stay away from the illegal stuff! At the risk of making myself sound prudish, addling your brain is the worst thing you could do. Hangovers and the morning afters aside, the brain is an extremely sensitive organ that regenerates slowly. One especially brutal drinking session will affect you for days. That’s not taking into the long term effects of drinking, smoking, and drugs; your brain could take up to 40 YEARS to undo the damage you do onto it today.

4. Do not burn out

With the pressure of exams and the holiday season, it can be easy to overburden yourself and burnout. Follow steps 1 and 2, and if you feel really close to the edge, talk to someone you trust. I’ll leave the psychological stuff out of this discussion, but find some ways to unload. Don’t forget that there are 2 weeks of oblivion holiday after!

5. Do not freak

Around exam time, perfectly sane students start running around like headless chickens. People freak out because they are disorganized. people freak out because they are afraid of being disorganized. People freak out because they can’t get through all the material in time. People freak out because they have gotten through all of the material they can and are at a loss as to what else they can study. It’s a time for paradoxes and potentially high emotions. Take a breath. Chill. Organize and study the best you can. Don’t worry if you’ve left the laundry undone, the dishes in the sink, or forgot to do one of the critical readings for an exam. Focus on what’s important to you and sweat the small stuff later. If you feel terrible because your exams have been tough, take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and that it will get better if you keep on trying!

6. Do not miss an exam!

This is obvious, but worth reiteration. Triple and quadruple check your exam schedule. Write it out or print it out and double check with friends. The day before a schedule exam, check your time and location again. This may be a bit over the top, but it’s better than showing up for an exam only to realize you’re not at the right place at the right time! Not writing the final can mean you literally fail in some courses, so it pays to be overzealous.

7. Do not let this list worry you

Some people – like myself – feel tense around exam time because of the pressure. If you are not one of those people, kudos! Keep on doing whatever you’ve been doing and you’ll sail through this exam season without issues. If you are feeling stressed out, do your best to relax (hopefully the above advice will help you somewhat) and you WILL get through it!

Good luck on your exams!