UK vs. USA: Marking vs. Grading

Since everyone is busy with their marking at the moment, here’s a breakdown of the difference between marking (in the UK) and grading (in the US) as I see it. This is the part of the job that I will miss the least!



1. You don’t do much of it during the semester/term.


1. It takes place straight through the Christmas period, which for me has meant that I have been marking on Boxing Day every year for the last five years.

2. You have to write a lot more on the script and in the university-wide non-negotiable comments sheet. The long comment especially is meant to be a long paragraph rather than a few sentences.

3. Second marking, double marking moderating and external examining (all required in some combination for every single assessment in the UK) make the process much longer, more repetitive and more soul destroying than could ever be considered necessary to ensure fairness and equity. You’d think it was a bunch of trained monkeys doing the job, given the amount of monitoring that’s taking place.



1. You don’t have to write nearly as much in the margins or in the long comment.

2. You can do it how you choose to do it (eg, with feedback sheet or without, handed back when you see fit, graded how you see fit, rewrites permitted or not as you wish).

3. It’s done before Christmas so you can actually have a break over the holidays.

4. Second marking, moderating and external examining are virtually non-existent.


1. Students are more likely to challenge a grade.

The Evils of Both

1. Red eye syndrome. Seriously, I had to treat my eyes for redness and dryness every December and every May.

2. Paranoia sets in. You start to think, I have marked so many papers/essays that I don’t remember the meaning of a mark anymore. You start going back and checking your marks in the event you made a mistake on the last one or two or ten.

3. You lose all ability to read and comprehend, finding yourself reading the same sentence five times without any clue as to what it means or what you can write next to it to help make the incomprehensibleness visible to the author.

4. You get to the point where you don’t need a break after every three or so essays but rather after every three or so pages.

5. We all know that the students usually only read the long comment quickly and either don’t bother with or don’t understand the marginal comments, so all of this agony is rather pointless.


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