How are Marks/Points Awarded?
This is a crucial concept for students to understand. First of all everyone wants to be rewarded for their efforts. Second of all, after the laborious Cornell note-taking, arduous SQ3R reading, the voluminous annotations, and tedious revision undertaken, you would like to feel as if you have become conversant with this knowledge and have made progress as a student.
Teachers are the ones who design and issue assignments, therefore they will be expertly assessing your response. Years of training and years of experience in reading student responses have honed your teacher’s skills to identify elements that meet and hopefully exceed the standard set by the rubrics. Your written responses will be evaluated in terms of a thesis, supporting evidence, and your analysis of that evidence. While those are the key elements to any response the way (legibility, grammar, writing style) you present your response adds to the clarity of your presentation and makes it easier for the teacher to understand what you are trying to prove.
Since the teacher developed the question and has well-established expectations as to what should be provided for a response, it is vital that you deconstruct that question in order to ensure that you satisfy the four question components of instruction, given factor, focus, and time period. Most responses require some sort of thesis or main direction of argument. This is the first aspect of your response that a teacher will seek to identify. If the thesis directly addresses and satisfies the prompt they will then look for how you “backed up” or substantiated your thesis with evidence. Merely listing facts (even relevant ones) may gain you some points/marks, yet if you hope to earn full credit you will need to analyze the evidence in support of your thesis.
It is important to conceptualize and understand your teacher’s decision-making process when reading and assessing your work. All teachers will be evaluating your work in the same manner. This should be considered in an ‘opportunistic’ manner and never in a ‘punitive’ manner. In other words, you should feel as if you will always be rewarded for your efforts that meet the standard established by the homework, test, or exam. These you can find in the assessment objectives, study guides, and rubrics provided by your teachers. If you have been attentive in class, taking good Cornell notes, keeping up with assignments, and have been properly revising, then you should never feel as if any assessment is unfair or beyond your reach.
Criteria for deciding marks or points within a level of attainment:
- The accuracy of factual information
2. The level of detail
3. The depth and precision displayed
4. The quality of links and arguments
5. The quality of written communication (grammar, spelling, punctuation and legibility; an appropriate form and style of writing; clear and coherent organization of ideas, including the use of specialist vocabulary)
6. Appropriate references to historical interpretation and debate
7. The conclusion – synthesis of evidence analysis toward specifically addressing the prompt.
From a teacher’s perspective a piece of student work will be approached in a similarly opportunistic manner. Your instructor will be looking for evidence of what has been laid out for you in the marking scheme or rubric or study guide. A teacher considers what they read in your writing very thoroughly in the search for evidence of your attainment of assessment objectives. The more you are able to use the relevant vocabulary, the more expertly you analyze evidence, and the more skillfully you reach a judgment – the more “marks” you will receive from the teacher when it is evaluated. You accumulate “points” every time you meet those objectives and deploy relevant, well-analyzed evidence. You will never have points ‘taken away’, if for no other reason than you start the assessment process with zero. Thus, it is up to you to present work that is a reflection of an entire unit of study. Teachers do not ‘give’ points/marks for a response – you earn them.
Most of the types of questions you will encounter are fully described in this handbook. It is well worth your time to become familiar with each type of question and its requirements so that you know exactly how to respond to each prompt. Because your assessments will always be ‘timed assessments’ you can further advantage yourself by knowing how much each question is ‘worth’ in terms of a teacher’s marks and your earned points. This is very important since you would not want to write too much for a lower value question only to “run out of time” in attempting to answer a higher value question. And yes, the lower value questions are always presented first, this is not to be cruel, it is because the questions are ordered in increasing sophistication. Also because the questions build upon one another as you progress so as to allow you to work with a smaller component of a bigger idea first, to get “warmed up”. Therefore you must have a good sense of practiced timing for answering each type of question so that you can answer them in the order presented to fully advantage yourself for the best possible outcome.
Your emphasis should be upon getting down as much accurate, relevant knowledge as possible in the time allotted to totally satisfy the requirements of the prompt. The best way to be awarded the most points/marks for any question is to prepare for the assessment well in advance. Just ‘knowing’ the material will not be enough since the real skill to be assessed is not so much memory as it is how you respond (critical thinking) to the prompts on the test or exam. This is where your study skills and revision techniques prove themselves to be vital tools for success.