Making mock marking easier in science

Author: Sarah Longshaw
Published: 01/10/2019

Practice exam marking can take ages and we want our students to get the best opportunity to act on the feedback. Here are six suggestions to make mock marking easier for you as a teacher, and more meaningful for students.

1. Feedback proforma/s

Before you start, prepare a feedback proforma – decide how you are going to classify the different types of question. Rather than focusing on the content, it might be helpful to look at skills. For example, you might use extended writing, calculation and practicals as possible question types.

·      List the question numbers for each type of question and the maximum marks available – perhaps as a table.

·      These can then be completed by students who can see how they have done on particular types of question.

·      Include a next step for students to complete – though you may need to give some examples to choose from.

Below is an example of a student feedback sheet:

Y11 mock therapy

Enter the number of marks you got for each question.

Extended response


Question number


Question number



































ere are some possible student response choices:

·      Write a brief plan for six-mark answers before I start them.

·      Identify key terms I need to include in my extended response answer.

·      Make sure that if I am using information from a table in my response, I add another comment (rather than just repeating it).

2. Analysis grid

Another way of analysing questions is to prepare a grid which can be filled in as you mark papers (although the numbers for average and maximum mark will need to be added at the end).

Question no.


Marks possible

Maximum mark

Average mark

Common issues



short question on bonding




Dot & cross diagrams.

Definition of ionic bond.

Relating properties to structure.


Extended writing:
making a salt




Poor sequencing of steps.

Misunderstanding of crystallisation.

3. PowerPoint support

As you are marking, produce a 5–10 question PowerPoint starter on the shorter questions, which have not been done well. These could be lifted directly from the paper – or you could use similar examples. Typical questions could include balancing equations, rearranging equations, calculating a formula mass, stating a test for a gas or an ion, giving the meaning of a particular term, and so on. Here is an example:.

Quick quiz

Soluble salts can be made by reacting an insoluble metal oxide with an acid.

1.   What type of reaction is this?

2.  What is the other product?

3.   What is the difference between an alkali and a base?

4.   Give the meaning of the term limiting reactant.

5.  Sodium sulphate contains the ions Na+ SO42- Give the formula of sodium sulphate.

6. Which acid would be used to make sodium sulphate?

4. Follow-up activities

Once you have identified which questions students have performed poorly in, you need to provide some follow-up activities, such as more questions to answer. You then need to allocate these questions to students. A simple way of tracking this is by adding a column to your mark book and noting the questions that you would like each student to do as you mark their papers (or enter the marks from their papers).


Mock mark

Therapy question

Mark for therapy question



a & c




a & e








c & e




a & d




b & d



The ‘therapy’ questions could be done in class or completed as homework. Either way, getting students to mark the questions themselves is helpful as it gets them familiar with the mark scheme.

5. Examiners’ report

If you are using an existing paper, or one prepared from published exam-style questions where examiners’ reports/commentaries are available, it can be useful to read these and provide general feedback to the class on key points such as the use of correct and accurate terminology – the need to write ‘volume’ of a solution rather than ‘amount’, for example.

6. Scaffolding

Students may have struggled to interpret what questions are asking, in which case providing some annotation is helpful. Give students a question with annotation (like the one below); next time, get them to add their own annotation and discuss what they might be writing. Gradually, as students become better at ‘reading’ a paper, you can withdraw this support.

Exam question:

Figure 1 below shows the electronic structure of an oxygen atom and a calcium atom.

Describe how the calcium atom and the oxygen atom forms calcium oxide. 

You should give the charge on each ion formed [4 marks].


This question asks you to describe how the calcium atom forms an ion and how the oxygen atom forms an ion (1 mark); by the transfer of electrons (1 mark).

You need to give the formula for each ion (1 mark for each).


Sarah Longshaw

Sarah Longshaw leads the Cheshire and Stockport Science Learning Partnership and is an active member of the Association for Science Education (ASE) through which she holds Chartered Science Teacher status.