An ELT Glossary : A subjectively marked test

  • Definition : An activity used for evaluation purposes which is graded depending on the judgement of the evaluator, rather than against a set of predetermined right answers. 

  • Examples :  Oral tests and essay-style questions are typical  subjective test types. For example, an essay for which no guidelines have been provided as to the relative importance of content, organisation, accuracy etc. If markers have different priorities (eg marker A marks on the basis of grammatucal accuracy, while marker B marks on the basis of  effective organisation of content), it may result in different marks being given for pieces of work which are actually at the same standard, making the results unreliable.

  • Subjective tests such as these can be made more reliable by providing markers with, and training them in the use of, set criteria for marking - eg up to ten marks must be allotted for grammatical accuracy, another ten for organisation and so on. 

  • Subjective tests contrast with objective tests (eg multiple choice) where there is a "right answer" and therefore no judgement is called for on the part of the marker.