Marking Criteria Codes

This teaching strategy was designed specifically for UK classrooms. Teachers in other contexts may choose to adapt it for their students.


Marking criteria codes are used to help students improve their work by allowing them to understand exactly when/where an error occurs and what they need to do to develop their writing. When used effectively, marking codes can save teachers marking time, can ensure that students have in-depth feedback and can promote student engagement with the feedback they are given. Using them also eliminates the issue of students not being able to read a teacher’s writing.

The codes have been divided into three groups: Reading, Writing and Design. Reading concerns comprehension skills, critical reading skills and analysing; writing focuses on technical writing skills such as spelling punctuation and grammar; and design encourages students to think about how to craft their language and ideas appropriately, and holds them accountable for completing their work to a high standard. Getting to grips with the marking codes requires an initial investment of time from the teacher; however, once the teacher has used them several times, the process becomes much speedier as common error codes get planted in memory. 

It is important that students are given copies of the Marking Criteria Codes handout as they will need them for reference when their work is returned to them. Consider laminating a set for an entire class.


  1. Mark a Student's Work

    If you encounter an error, then write the code that corresponds with that error directly where it is found so that students understand where and how they went wrong. You may decide to focus on just one paragraph of an essay or to limit the number of errors you identify.

    We recommend that teachers also engage positively with a student’s work by writing a comment at the end and/or writing out the codes of areas in which the student did particularly well; this can promote positive student–teacher relationships and will give students confidence by identifying and celebrating their strengths.

  2. Give Students the Chance to Engage with the Marking

    Hand out Marking Criteria Codes so that each student has their own copy or one to share with a pair. Then, ask students to first engage with the marking by writing out what the code means and correcting their errors.

  3. Give Students the Chance to Redraft Their Work

    After they have identified and corrected their errors, give students the opportunity to redraft their work taking your feedback into consideration and by writing out their work with the corrections. This will help them to internalise feedback and develop important writing skills.

For more teaching strategies designed for UK Educators, view our PDF resource Teaching Strategies.


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