I had a course in which the instructor let the markers make the midterm marking scheme and had students ask the TAs to resolve any marking issues instead of talking to him, though the instructor provided sample answers. As far as I know, many TAs are inexperienced and I think leaving the job of making marking scheme to TAs may be too much for them. IMO, making marking scheme should be the instructor's duty. I don't know if it is common in university.

4 Answers 4


This might vary by country, but in the US, if the graders are undergraduates--which shouldn't be the case for midterms--then I would say that it's unusual to allow them to decide on the grading scheme. If the graders are grad students, it's quite common. At many schools even first-year grad students are the instructor of record for a course.

  • My daughter's a TA in math at a university in the US. She just got done grading a pile of exams. Don't know if she had to decide on the grading scale or not. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 3:30
  • 2
    I graded plenty of midterms as an undergraduate TA. I didn't set the grading scheme, though. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 8:00
  • The schools I have experience with have policies against undergraduates making signficant grading decisions--such as for exams--about other undergraduates. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 22:04
  • When I was an undergrad, back in the '90s, my department would hire undergrads to grade the exams for the big gen-ed course in our field. We worked in small groups marking a single problem on all the papers, and the group set the criteria for the grading—but we had to get it that scheme approved before we could use it. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 22:27

From my personal experience, both as a student and TA I would say that this is quite common in the US, particularly in large, lower level courses. Many professors find such courses boring to teach and will hand off as much as they can to the TAs. For some courses, the TAs may even give regular lectures.

As a TA, it's not all bad though. They often write portions of or all of the exams, which allows them to make sure students have a firm understanding of the most important material. They also likely have a better grasp of where students are struggling and will focus on those areas during recitations or review sessions. Students tend to feel more comfortable approaching them, assuming they're doing their job appropriately.

Regardless, if you truly feel like the TA is marking unfairly and isn't doing an appropriate job explaining their grading scheme when you ask them about it, you should take it up with the course instructor - particularly if others students are voicing concerns over the same issues.

  • Actually, I am the marker. I just feel that some students' questions are not up to TAs to resolve but my instructor insisted that TAs MUST meet with students to resolve any marking issues. I just disagree with my instructor's regrading policy somehow. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 3:27
  • Well, you should speak with your instructor with as explicit concerns as possible. Ultimately, it's probably going to be your call though, so all you can do is try to be as fair as possible and learn from the experience, particularly if you have several students with similar concerns. Many institutions will provide TA training for grading as well - you might check to see if your institution has a workshop or something. Rather surprised it wasn't covered in your training though. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 3:39
  • 2
    The positive attitude to being offered responsibility for something is to take it, not to run away from it. You can't avoid it for ever, so start taking it right now!
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 3:42
  • 1
    @JaredAndrews Actually, I didn't get training before being a TA. That is also the reason why I think the instructor let me decide too much. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 3:54
  • 2
    @Rapidturtle: I suspect you will get much better results not by telling the instructor “We are not trained for this, you should be doing it!” but instead by telling them “We are not trained for this, please can you help us do it?” The latter option shows that you are enthusiastic and willing to work and learn, so is more likely to be received positively by the instructor; and assuming they do help, it gives you valuable experience and training on a new skill. If they don’t respond positively to that request for help, then you are on more solid grounds to voice your concerns externally.
    – PLL
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 12:21

As someone not from the US (I'm a PhD student in Hong Kong) - yes, here too. TAs are only graduate students, however. Before we were allowed to take on TA work, we had to take a "Certificate in Teaching and Learning" course where it was explicitly shown to us how to create a good grading rubric and grade fairly, among other things.

Don't think that everything the instructor does will automatically be better. TAs have more time to spend on the course, usually. In my case the professor is so busy that practically all his sample answers, when he does have time to make them himself rather than leaving it to me, contain multiple errors! (Of course I also make plenty of mistakes, but they usually become apparent while grading and get fixed before the students see them.)


In my experience (two large state universities in the US) this is unusual. My experience was that the TA or TAs graded the midterms and finals, but the professor reviewed the exams before the grades were officially recorded and before the exams were returned to the students.

Now, about the grading scheme. For exams, the professor gave the TA(s) the grading scheme, which had been built into the exam during the design phase. For homework:

  • For a large course with multiple TAs, the more experienced TA(s) would set up the grading scheme, and the less experienced TA(s) would ask a more experienced TA for guidance when unsure.

  • For a smaller course with just one TA, the instructor often provided guidance. If not, the TA could set up a grading scheme, and if in doubt, could check with the instructor.

Tip: If I were in your shoes, I would request an assignment, for next semester, to a large course, where you'd be part of a TA team, and would learn by doing, alongside at least one more experienced TA.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .