Some students (and teachers) remain confused by the abbreviations used in mark schemes. Since completing and then marking past papers is a key element in effective revision for the upcoming examinations, I thought it timely to highlight the following conventions used by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) at both IGCSE and A Level.
All parts of the answer separated by a plus sign or comma are required to achieve the mark. In the example below, the candidate must refer to assimilates or sucrose and to the fact that they lower the water potential (inside the sieve tube element) in order to gain one mark.
Information in parentheses does not need to be made explicit in the answer in order for the candidate to achieve the mark/s. See example below.
Alternative answers for the same point. In the example below, the candidate can make reference to either folding or coiling and does not need to mention the tertiary structure (in parentheses) in order to be awarded the mark.
Separates marking points. In other words, semi-colons represent the number of marks available for each answer. Note, that for the example below, full marks are available just for giving the answer (300) whether or not the candidate has also shown their workings out.
Accept. The answer is not the answer the examiner is looking for but has been correctly cued by an equation or extra guidance and therefore acceptable to achieve the mark.
Any Valid Point. One point (note the one semi-colon) can be awarded at the examiner’s discretion if any other valid point has been made by the candidate.
Any Valid Point. The examiner can award up to two marks (note the two semi-colons) for two valid points made by the candidate.
Reject. This is different to ‘Ignore’ (I) and is a negative marking system. In other words, a mark must be deducted from the total if a ‘Reject’ answer is given. In the example below, if a candidate wrote ‘antibodies produced by T-cells‘ they would not receive a mark (i.e. the point awarded for correctly answering that antibodies are produced is deducted for incorrectly stating that they are produced by T-cells).
Alternative wording. This is used when the responses are likely to vary more than usual. For example, instead of saying ‘less oxygen enters the blood‘ it would be acceptable to answer ‘less oxygen passes into the blood‘ or ‘less oxygen diffuses into the blood‘ etc.
These are key words which must be used by the candidate in order to achieve the mark. Note that grammatical variants and spelling errors (so long as the word can be read phonetically) are accepted.
Or reverse argument. The reverse argument is equally valid.
I hope this clears up any confusion but if you have any questions about mark schemes and script abbreviations or conventions, please do get in touch.