Example 1: Marking selectively

You can use this example of effective marking to adapt your marking approach and help pupils improve their writing skills.

Features of selective marking

You can use this example of effective practice to find out how to mark selectively. You can focus your marking by choosing key areas to comment on and identify, to help pupils improve their writing skills.

When marking, comment on:

  • the learning objectives by referring back to these during marking – before marking, you can share the objectives with pupils and identify them in your lesson plans.
  • high-value features where pupils can generalise from the marking, for example your marking can help pupils learn about conventions for a particular genre or purpose rather than specific phrasing.


  • when it is appropriate to mark parts rather than the whole, for example you could focus on pupils’ concluding paragraphs and agree this approach with them beforehand
  • patterns of frequent misuses (confusing the use of words) and abuses (inappropriate use of words); vowel choices, for example
  • misuses that are easy to correct and give pupils a sense of success, for example misspellings that conform to rules
  • common weaknesses in a group or set of pupils by using, for example, an Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) assessment guideline and then adapting the next sequence of learning to target those assessment focuses. You can track pupils' progression by selectively marking those agreed areas. If you are working to selected criteria, you can use your discretion to reward or praise attainment that falls outside these targeted objectives.

Focus on:

  • aspects of writing that can help individual pupils meet their agreed personal targets, for example their use of capital letters
  • choosing a clear example to mark and discuss with a pupil individually or in guided work – you could try this approach rather than repeatedly marking the same mistake
  • responding to the success criteria and identifying next steps for improvement, rather than simply making comments.