Marking is one of those things about teaching that you think will be lots of fun, but in reality it can be extremely time-consuming.

Working in a school with a significant emphasis on marking has taught me some very efficient ways to tackle this task that comes in many different forms.

From books to exams to essays, marking can sometimes eat away so much of your time that you don’t have enough time left over to actually plan lessons.

The biggest help in reducing the time you spend marking is to increase the time the students themselves are marking their own work.

Below is a list of strategies that I use to keep marking time to a minimum without compromising quality.

Different Coloured Pens

At my school in the UK teachers mark in purple instead of red (research shows it is less stressful to engage with marking done in a colour other than red, which often has very negative connotations).

The students themselves mark in green pen when they are doing self or peer marking.

This makes it easy to see what has been marked and by whom.


If your school or department has a focus on spelling, you don’t necessarily need to do constant spelling tests for the students to improve.

At the beginning of each lesson, choose two or three key words from the last lesson and put them up on the board. If you think those words will only be from that lesson and won’t have been used before, choose one or two key words plus one scientific word such as ‘experiment’ or ‘variable’.

Have the students go through their entire exercise book, including any sheets that may be stuck in, and put a small tick next to each of those words they have spelled correctly. If they got it wrong, they write it correctly just above it.

Doing it this way not only makes the students read and check that particular word many times in one sitting, it also improves their skills in scanning texts for key words. On top of that, because they are scanning their work they are doing a little bit of revision at the same time.

Book Presentation

At the beginning of the lesson put up a slide that has all of the key criteria for good book presentation. This could include things like having the date on each page, all titles underlined, etc.

Give the students a few minutes to go back through their book and quickly fix up any of these things they may have forgotten to do.

If you do this consistently the students get used to the routine very quickly and will remember more easily to do things correct the first time.

Print Generic Comments

If you are marking an essay, exam or task, it can be a good idea to have a quick flick through their responses before actively marking them.

If you are finding many students are making the same mistake, particularly with tasks like drawing tables or graphs, type up a generic comment and print out as many copies as you need (on the same page of course).

Then either you or the students can glue the comment on the appropriate part of their work. This saves you time in physically writing comments, but will only work if the comment you are typing covers a significant portion of your class.

Symbols Instead of Comments

Similar to the tip above, if you are finding you will be writing the same comment over and over again, substitute the whole comment for a single symbol.

Greek letter work really well, as do simple shapes like squares and triangles.

When you hand the work back to the students, write the symbols and their meanings on the board. Have the students copy the comment next to where you wrote the symbol and respond appropriately.

Page at a Time

This is the biggest time saver I have found when marking exams.

Instead of marking one entire exam then moving on to the next one, mark the same page in every exam before moving on to the next page in every exam.

You will find that you understand the question (and probable answers) better, and depending how many times you mark the same question you may even start to memorise the answers.

It also allows you to gain a better understanding of topics that the students perhaps didn’t understand as well as you were hoping.

Self and Peer Marking

This one is used by many teachers for tasks such as homework. Having the students mark their own and/or each other’s work is not only a great time-saver for you, but allows them to examine the work of other students.

This is most commonly used in lower year levels on simple tasks, but works just as well on higher year levels and difficult tasks.

Senior students often enjoy critiquing each other’s work, such as essays and long-response questions. It gives them a feeling of power, and also forces them to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of their own work.

If you train them to work with marking guides and syllabus documents, it also improves their understanding of the curriculum and how they are expected to respond to exam or essay questions.


Try implementing a few of these strategies and see if they save you some time. It might only be an extra 5 minutes here and there, but we all know every spare minute counts.

If you have any of your own strategies that help you, please share them in the comments below!

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