I have the privilege of teaching composition. This requires me to read several dozen papers in a given class. I have rubrics but no matter what I have to sit down and read the papers word for word in order to assess them. They're not long papers (about 10 pages), but I still have to read them.

Naturally, this takes a great deal of time in comparison to grading other forms of assignments. Checking main ideas, grammar, cohesiveness, APA formatting, etc.is slowly becoming a nightmare.

I want to know ways that others use to decrease the amount of time it takes to mark term papers.

  • There's a related question here, although that one is about grading problem sets, not papers; but maybe you will find some of those suggestions useful nonetheless.
    – ff524
    May 2, 2016 at 8:46
  • yeah I saw that, so I was really careful in how I worded the question. This question focuses on compositions and not short answer/problem sets May 2, 2016 at 8:56
  • Hmm, a tremendous amount of creative liberty was taken in the editing. I know we need to catch grammar but I don't recall saying anything about a "nightmare". I just don't express myself in such a vulnerable way. May 2, 2016 at 9:10
  • 5
    Not sure what you're getting at? You can see the complete version history by clicking on the "Edited" link above and see exactly who said what. As far as I can see, "nightmare" was your word.
    – ff524
    May 2, 2016 at 9:13
  • You could always say "If you don't hand me any of your sheisty papers you will get an A. If you hand me one of your sheisty papers, I might not like it and you might not get an A."(Zizek) Then all of your papers will be read with quality but you might not have any papers to read! Nov 1, 2016 at 3:33

2 Answers 2


I find it efficient to make several passes through the all papers. Although it would involve reading each paper more than once, I find I am able to give them better focus and achieve better results, which I will explain.

In the first pass I check for very basic things, such a rubric, have they been labelled correctly in the correct basic format; I check for typos, spelling, citations, bibliography and note anything messy and distracting. Having got those out of the way I find I can now focus on content without being constantly distracted by flagging the visual aspects. I read (scan) through all the papers only handling the trivial aspects. Once done I start again on the next pass.

In the next pass I focus on the reading and ensure the sentences and paragraphs make sense. I can pick up missed words, malapropisms, homophones, punctuation and such like this way. Once I am happy that the words make sense on a micro scale (in all the papers), I can start to look at the bigger picture.

On the third pass I can look at overall structure; is the material introduced in a sensible order, is the focus on the right area and finally did I enjoy reading it and did overall make sense.

It might seem long winded, but I find that my performance (scripts per hour) can be faster and more detailed than myself or compared to colleagues that note everything in one script before moving to another.

This may not work for others, but I offer it as an example methodology.

  • To clarify, do you do all three passes on one paper before moving on to the next paper, or do you do pass one on all papers, then pass two on all papers, etc? May 2, 2016 at 19:56
  • @ToddWilcox No. I do each pass on all the papers before starting again on the next pass. I thought my wording was clear.... May 2, 2016 at 20:07
  • Funny, I thought my wording was clear in that I wasn't asking a yes or no question... In any case, your method for grading is now clear to me, at least. May 2, 2016 at 20:10

Sadly, you would have to read every single paper. In your particular case (language composition), you ought not to take shortcuts. Sparse reading of the composition would not provide proper evaluation. Hence you may not be able to decrease the time you spend for correction.

But, there are ways you can reduce the stress you get during correction. Segregate your task and process them at regular work-rest intervals instead of taking them all on at once. Also as you progress, your speed at evaluation will increase, but it will require experience.

  • Well, I don't want to sacrifice quality I just want to improve my efficiency May 2, 2016 at 8:57
  • @DarrinThomas: Efficiency in this case would only improve through practice.
    – Ébe Isaac
    May 2, 2016 at 9:07

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