Checking exam scripts: One moral side of teaching

Photo: Orchid Chakma


I can safely proclaim that one of the hazards of teaching is checking exam scripts. The longer you take to open a parcel of scripts, the larger the giant in the parcel grows. So, the day you receive exam scripts, open the parcel. Let the giant out. Keep in mind though, the giant shall be pestering you.

Common sense now suggests you count and check you have all the scripts. Sometimes the giant in the parcel plays funny tricks. One script could be inside another one. Now order the scripts in their ID serial if somebody hasn't done it.

Class sizes in universities range from 30 to more than 150. Whatever the number, you won't check the scripts in one session. Break the number down into convenient segments. Now count backwards. Finish each segment and then say, (n-1), (n-2), etc. are left. Checking small segments helps you to stay focused. Remember: focus is the first keyword.


How much time you have may vary. In public universities, they give you roughly five scripts per day. In private universities, you normally don't get more than one week. Whatever the time limit, you need to be focused when you check. To remain focused, you need to keep few things in mind.

You must be in a happy mood. If you're grumpy, you may not stay focused. To be in a happy mood, you also need to be alert. This means you can't check scripts when you're tired, exhausted, sleepy, or doing the task at the last moment. If you do, you may lose focus and not do justice. Remember: justice is the second keyword.

What could be the last thing you need to keep in mind? Checking scripts will involve a few hours in small sessions. You need to be happy and not tired. You also need to make sure you're not on an empty stomach. Can you really focus on something when you're on an empty stomach?

What do you do if you mark two scripts in a row that did bad? Take a break. Have a Kit Kat or a cup of tea. Go for a stroll. If you carry on checking, the third script may not receive proper justice.


Teaching is unlike other professions. You need to be a friend, philosopher, and guide to the students. You also need to be a judge and do justice. Marking scripts is one aspect of teaching that illustrates a Hippocrates oath. You may fail to make a student dream. At least don't shatter their dreams. No teacher has the moral right to do so. This last sentence is what Jewel Aich told me twice a few days before I joined Economics at Jahangirnagar as a lecturer. I never forgot that last sentence of wisdom from Jewel Da'.

Asrar Chowdhury is a professor of economics. He follows Test cricket and listens to music when he has free time. Email: [email protected]; or [email protected]


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