How to break down a marking scheme for students by @lessonhacks

Teaching a new spec?

I went to an AQA English training recently to be strangely comforted by the fact that I’m not the only one who’s a bit befuddled and insecure about the new changes.  I told my students this and they understood completely. We’re all in the same boat, after all, and I’ve learned over the years that some level of ‘between-you-and-me’ helps students understand the stakes.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Nicole Schmidt and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here. Read more articles from Nicole by clicking here.

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I asked my year tens what befuddled them the most about the sample exam marking scheme and they said that they had a hard time understanding what the criteria looks like even when it’s translated into student speak.

In response to this feedback, I created ‘An Anatomy of a Level _____ response’ for levels 2-4 on the new AQA GCSE language marking scheme. The purpose was to match the level criteria with specific examples from the specimen answer for that level. I also decided to keep the original marking scheme language, wanting to help develop their vocabulary. When I introduced this to them, we spent a good 30 minutes on hashing out what it all meant, including having them look up words. Where there might be confusion, I typed up another sample on the spot to give them another example.

Unanimously, students felt that it was really helpful. I even had two students linger briefly after a lesson to express appreciation for having made it so clear to them. (Just to give some context, I teach in a comprehensive school with a fairly challenging student population. Appreciation for effective pedagogy is rare in my life.)

I now use these anatomies constantly, including asking students to mark example responses, providing a level and reasons for their marks/levels.

Feel free to knick it and adapt for your purposes:-) You can send me a message if you’d like me to email you a copy.


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.


  1. Hi - is it possible to have a copy of this mark scheme breakdown emailed? I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this with my students!

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