The ultimate solution to fair marking for students

James Bond
5 min readAug 23, 2019


The National Union of Students once ran a campaign on anonymous marking (1.) I have previously written articles on the flaws of anonymous marking.

There is only one fair way to ensure that exam papers are marked fairly.

That is to return the marked exam papers back to the candidate once marked.

After my research year, the Student British Medical Journal asked me to write an article on why students should have their exam papers back once marked (2.)

To make matters more controversial they asked Professor Weetman-the dean of Sheffield University medical school to write an article on why students should NOT have their papers back once marked. However, on finding out I was writing the proposing article he demanded to see my article before he wrote his. Why? Was he afraid I was going to tell the public about how the University of Sheffield falsified my exam results?

The main advantages are as shown in my article (3) are as follows.

Feedback . A student regardless of academic level cannot be expected to change or improve if they don’t know where they have gone wrong in the past and simply receiving a grade is not sufficient for this purpose. It is fundamental to the learning process that the student has a model answer and/or feedback comments to take home go over his/her work and learn from it.

It protects the examiner against allegations of bias- anonymous marking is a myth. This prevents grossly embarrassing publicity. Had the University of Sheffield returned examination papers back once marked it would have gone a long way to prevent the Commission for Racial equality making representations. (4)

If there has been a mistake it is easier to sort out.This is explained in the Student BMJ article. However, I remember when I was at school. In a geography exam (30 students) the school hadn’t added the marks up properly. The pupil concerned added his marks up properly. After doing this his marks went up by 20%.

However, when the A-level crisis of 2002 occurred it was a classic case of “I told you so.” (5),(6), (7),(8), (9) (10.)

If you have failed it is easier to accept.

This also has numerous other benefits that are not in the Student BMJ article.

It simplifies the appeals process. When my book on my university experiences comes out you will see they manipulated procedures to suit themselves.

You will see that numerous times I appealed but the appeal was rejected but when it went to Student Review things happened. You will also note that one external examiner falsely accused me of being a drug taker on the basis of my exam papers. I was re-instated and allowed another attempt. However, at the remedial attempt I failed, I appealed, the appeal was rejected.

However, I did keep hold of certain information I was not meant to have hold of. This information is normally only seen by the examiners and assessors. Using this information I managed to get an exam decision overturned from fail to pass. However, that was a very stressful few months. Had I got the papers it would have been faster and a lot less stressful.

It leads to a more humane method of giving results. In medicine, pass and fail lists are put up on a notice board by name- this is a humiliating process. They should post the exam script back to you in an envelope with the marking scheme and/or feedback comments.

Ironically I remember one incident. A student who I shall refer to as Mr. X looked on the notice board and got the impression that he had achieved a distinction. I then looked at the notice board and found that Mr. X had erroneously confused his result with that of a student with the same surname. Mr. X had failed and Mr. Y with the same surname had got a distinction. Needless to say that wasn’t a pleasant experience for him.

It makes it easier to being able to speak out and up for yourself. Some students have been suspended for speaking out. They are marked people now. They face the risk of academic failure for no reason at all. When I did my research year one student told me that she had been raped by a consultant but he told her that if she complained he’d have her failed. She was only too aware that there are drawbacks in “anonymous marking.” As such she never complained. If papers were returned it reduces this method of harassment. Although this is an extreme case it does show what I am on about.

The opposing article

Ironically Sheffield’s medical school dean was asked to write an article on why students should not have their papers back. However he demanded to see my article before he wrote his article.

Interestingly enough I got an email from a Professor about the debate

I am writing to ask for your help. In my medical school we are coming to
terms with recording of questions and answers in the Path/Micro oral exams.
This presently requires three of our four examiners to be scribbling on
notepads, and I have found this to be a distraction both for myself and for
the candidate.

I also got an email from a prominent student.

Frankly, I was more disgusted that he had read your article before writing
his own, thus refuting your arguments and not putting forward substantial
ones of his own.

I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of returning papers, and was partly
involved in ensuring this happens at (Name of university removed). It is a valuable learning tool.

For oral exams called vivas all that is required is two tape recorders or CD recorders. Two copies of the viva are made and at the end one copy is given to the candidate.

If you see the movie “In the name of the father” about the Guildford four. You will see how the police falsified interviewed evidence. Cases like the Guildford four led to taping of police interviews because of falsified evidence and forcing people to confess. Do academics do the same?

What is to stop academics falsifying evidence such as what happened in a viva? This happened to me and I refuse to believe that the external examiner’s comments are a true reflection of these vivas.


The National Union of Students Mark my words campaign is a waste of time.

They should be campaigning for the unconditional return of marked exam papers.


1. Mark my words National Union of Students

2. Student BMJ letter 30th July 1999

3. Should candidates be given their marked up papers back after examinations-the casefor Student BMJ December 1999

4. Minority Medics Probe Times Higher Education supplement 26th January 2001

5. Exams body admits results error 3 October 2001

6. Wrong test results for 14-year-olds Tuesday, 1 October, 2002,

7. Students’ angry A-level e-mails Wednesday, 2 October, 2002

8. Students in A-level exam blunders 14 June 2002

9. A-level results missing 14 August 2003

10. School’s A-levels wrongly marked 5 May 2005