Five tips for… exam season!

Final exams and paper grading are upon us. At this busy time, we know that you want distractions — but maybe not really long distractions. So here are our best tips for powering through the end of the semester as painlessly as possible! 

  1. Streamline. If you’re grading papers with multiple possible topics, grade all of papers on the same topic at the same time. If you’re grading exams, try grading all page 1s, then all page 2s. You’ll get used to the answers (and the quality of answer) and the frequent mistakes.
  2. Go digital. If possible, have your students turn in papers electronically. Then store common feedback in a separate file for cutting & pasting. Some grading products, like Turnitin, allow you to make macros for this purpose.
  3. Ask who wants feedback. A lot of students only care about their grades, and won’t read your comments. This situation is depressing, but not something that you can change at the last minute in your class. Ask students to state whether they want written feedback or only a grade, and then give only brief notes explaining the grade to those who don’t want comments. (I usually give 3-5 bullet points, along the lines of *not enough sources–does not meet guidelines; * good argument in paragraph 4; etc.).
  4. Don’t try to decipher handwriting. Spend a few seconds and no more on illegible writing. Sometimes, you can understand or guess at the word in context. If all of the writing is too messy, email the student and ask them to read it to you. (Note: this has never happened to me, because usually I can guess what it says in context.)
  5. Take breaks and make sure to give yourself time to relax! Grading is stressful, boring, and frustrating. Make sure to give yourself time once an hour to get up, walk around, and give yourself a brain break. You deserve it!




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