Essay Writing: How Examiners Mark Essays In English Language

How Examiners Mark Essays in English Language is always mostly searched by students who have written the English language essay examination. Examinations such as WAEC, NECO, GCE, and SAT usually have the same standards for marking because they all write essays and the marking scheme is universal.

Students should note that every type of essay writing be it a narrative essay, article or argumentative essay demands a distinctive style and approach. Candidates are expected to write the following kinds of essays: narrative, descriptive, expository, and argumentative. They should also be able to compose various other types:’ reports, letters, and creative writing. The question will specify the reader(s) and the situation. Here is a typical example:

“You have been invited by the Senior Literary and Debating Society of your old school or college to deliver a speech on ‘The Role of Youths in Nation Building’ as part of the activities of the Annual Literary Day Celebration of the school. Write out your speech.”

The situation here is the celebration of the Annual Literary Day in your Old school and you are a guest speaker. The audience will likely be made up mainly of staff and students of the school. In delivering your speech, you must bear in mind the relevance of the topic to the audience. Not only that, your use of language should be appropriate: it must be simple but formal.

It is also necessary that you spend at least five minutes brainstorming and jotting down your points and ideas on the subject which you are writing. Having done this, you should also arrange the ideas in a logical order. Even though you may have a list of eight to ten ideas to be discussed, your essay must not be less than the 400-word limit. It is no use discussing at length within the time and the word limit is only three or four of the ideas available to you.

That will not be wise. Do not forget that one of the aspects to be considered in the award of marks is the wealth of ideas contained in the speech. So it is better to touch, if only briefly, on all points generally than to treat very few points in great detail. Some candidates even repeat Ideas in the hope of satisfying the required length. Such a repetition of ideas is not encouraged.

The language of your essay must be suitable for the topic on which you are writing. There are certain words or expressions which are used technically or peculiarly in definite circumstances. Such words or expressions are the ‘register’ for an area of study.

The English Language syllabus expects you to be familiar with the basic registers used in the fields of technology, the sciences, education, health, culture, and on. For example, the following are some of the words and expressions used in connection with ‘rain’: breeze, wind, clouds, thunder, lightning, showers, drizzle, peddles, condensation, rain cats and dogs, banging of doors and windows, rain-doctor, rainfall, raindrops, gutters, flood, bridges.

If you are familiar with the registers, it will help a great deal in your choice of topic to write on in the examination. Always choose an area in which you are most familiar with the register.

Finally, always bear in mind the fact that the division of essays into different types is not watertight. You may find that two types are required in writing on one topic. It is useful to remember this since it will help you in the choice of style‘ and the use of language.

Also, note that the use of inclusive language is also important when writing essays. Most students dwell on using the masculine gender language and most examiners find it offensive and most times, they penalize students by reducing marks.

How Examiners Mark Essays In English Language

The features of a good essay that make up how examiners mark essays in English language include rich content, orderly presentation, correct use of the language, and avoidance of mechanical errors.

Content: This is the material that the candidate presents. Such material must be relevant to the question set; otherwise, the attempt will be awarded no credit for content. The material should also be factual, and the mark scored will depend on the number of relevant ideas presented by the candidate. Besides, the question may demand an answer in two or three parts. For example, the following question is in three parts:

Discuss possible ways in which you think the moral, academic, and healthy development of the youth can be encouraged in your country.

The question relates to three areas: the moral, academic, and healthy development of the youth. It will, therefore, be unwise for a candidate to write only on moral development simply because he is deeply religious. If he does that, the maximum mark he can score under content is one-third of the mark allocated to that aspect of the essay.

How Examiners Mark Essays In English Language

The candidate is also expected to maintain a balance in writing. In other words, he should not discuss one part of the topic in two pages and then dismiss the two other parts in just two paragraphs. Rather, he should devote equal attention to the various parts of the topic

Presentation: This should be an orderly exposition, demonstrating the required formal features. For example, if the question requires the candidate to describe his detailed activities on a typical day, it will be a poor, untidy presentation of morning activities first, evening activities next, and then end-of-afternoon activities.

Concerning formal features, the rules that govern the presentation of each type of essay should be strictly observed. The candidate should write a letter only where one is expected. If a speech or an address is required, attention should be paid to the official form of opening and closing.

Apart from the above, the candidate should make good use of paragraphs. It is no use having a paragraph run on unnecessarily for a whole page. The sentences within each paragraph, too, must be controlled. Some candidates write long sentences, each running on up to 12 or 14 lines. Each paragraph should deal with only one idea discussed under content.

The flow of ideas from one paragraph to another must be very smooth, with the paragraphs appropriately linked. Taking the essay as a whole, a candidate who presents unacceptable material under content may still score good marks for presentation if whatever has been presented is well organized.

Use of language: This, most probably, is where many candidates’ weakest points. Their failure begins here because this aspect of the essay tests the ability to communicate and convey their ideas through the use of language. The ability is tested on:

  • the choice of the right words, idioms, and expression
  • the use of language for the people at whom the writing is directed;
  • use of different types of sentences; and
  • effective use of punctuation for sentenæ control.

The candidate should avoid clumsy sentence construction or use of sentences. Slang and colloquial expressions are allowed only in informal communication with friends, colleagues, and so on.

Mechanical errors: This is another aspect in which most candidates exhibit weakness. Heavy penalties are awarded for wrong bad punctuation and glaring errors of grammar and structure. The candidate loses marks for every error, so this is for extreme carefulness on the part of candidates in the examination. Also, flee importance of legible handwriting and of the conventional way of writing cannot be over-emphasized. Ensure that no mark is lost at all for mechanical errors requires very great After writing for about 40 minutes, stop and read over your essay to correct any slip or error

Look out, especially for the following

  • careless handwriting
  • careless omission of words
  • use of incorrect tense, e.g using present tense instead of past tense
  • disregarding the rules governing the sequence of tenses, e.g. present tense in the dependent clause following past tense in the principal clause.
  • indiscriminate use of helping verbs like may, might, is, are, etc.
  • confused use of articles, parts of speech, idiomatic expressions, and punctuation marks
  • wrong spellings and use of ambiguous words.

It is not possible to exhaust all possible mechanical errors. Therefore, the candidate has to be extremely conscious and careful. Often, candidates make so many mechanical errors that it becomes impossible to make sense of what they have written.

As a result, they score low marks in the Use of Language in addition to scoring zero for mechanical errors. For most candidates, serious effort has to be made to earn any credit at all for mechanical accuracy. This will help students more as a guide to be able to know how examiners mark essays in English Language for a better score achievement.

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