Having done a first-aid course in the middle of a heavy marking period, certain medical conditions have become apparent in relation to marking of student work; they are described below, with appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and are distributed for the attention of first aiders and others who are concerned about the health of colleagues. Any similarity between these conditions and living persons is purely coincidental.


Excessive desire to do marking. It is a bizarre condition arising from an extended period of heavy marking. Early signs include attempts to grade Mitigating Circumstances forms. The most serious form of markophilia may be diagnosed if the sufferer raids the office of a certified markophobic (see below) in the search for more marking. Treatment: rest: recovery takes place within 24 hours after marking is finished.


Fear of marking. May be identified by a general lateness in completing a set, or several sets, of marking. Extreme forms of Markophobia are recognisable by delivery of a set of marking to the subject leader on the morning before an afternoon exam board, giving the minimum possible (usually not enough) time for second marking, and for spreadsheets to be completed and checked. In the worst known case on record, marking was still being done during an exam pre-board meeting. Markophobia is treated by better life-planning.

Incipient markophobia:

This is a grey area of diagnosis, where you think that markophobia may be developing, or even fully formed in cryptic mode, in a colleague. Signs of this may be apparent when you go into a colleague's office to see piles of unmarked work, some of which you recognise to be from a module of which you are leader, and which you passed to the suspected markophobic some time back. Fully developed markophobia may be confirmed if the marking is still there several days before the exam board. Self-diagnosis is possible, and treatment is by better life-planning, but drastic measures are needed if the sufferer has the more serious condition of Markopoly (see later).

Aggravated markophobia:

markophobia which is worsened by other (unspecified) problems in your life, which prevent you from dealing with your markophobia, let alone your marking. Successful treatment is achieved by taking a firm grip on your situation.

Bouncing markophobia:

is a minor form of markophobia, recognised by the passing of a set (or sets) of marking back and forth between staff in an attempt to try to avoid more marking; inevitably somebody loses. It's a bit like musical chairs; indeed some authorities have called this condition musical markophobia. Sadly, however, staff vocalisation during this process is normally not musical. Treatment is achieved by developing a better understanding of your colleagues.


Allied to narcolepsy, markolepsy is suspected when the overstretched marker falls asleep within 5 minutes of starting to mark a set of scripts. Furthermore, markolepsy may strike at any time during marking, and is often preceded by dysmarkia (see below); a sufferer may be able to sense an impending attack of markolepsy, in that twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep. If markolepsy happens consistently over a period of years, then Chronic Markolepsy may be diagnosed. If a colleague falls asleep in departmental meetings, exam boards and research talks, then he or she may suffer from a transferred form of markolepsy, and other staff should stay alert for such signs. Treatment: a sufferer should take a break, and maybe avoid these meetings altogether.


This describes the worst possible case of a person who is both markophobic and markophilic at the same time. Markopoly is often found amongst external examiners; not satisfied with doing their own marking, they feel the urge to examine the marking in other universities. Markopolic colleagues should be hospitalised immediately. Treatment is by aversion therapy; the sufferer is locked in a padded room with a huge pile of marking on a subject he/she knows nothing about, and told to finish it by the following morning. If the sufferer undergoes complete collapse, then he or she should be placed in the recovery position (see later) Note: Monopoly, Marco Polo and Mark Anthony are nothing to do with Markopoly.


Lack or paucity of written comments on exam scripts and coursework. Blankmarkia causes problems for the sufferer who is unable to explain the recorded mark, when challenged several months later, and has to mark the piece(s) of work all over again; second markers and external examiners are therefore similarly affected. Treatment involves taking more care over marking, ensuring that you provide a summary of all the good points, and detail the ways in which the work could be improved. Furthermore, being generally kind to colleagues and students will lower your heart rate, and make your marking more bearable.


Lack of marking. This normally occurs in the early part of term. Amarkia can be hard to spot in a busy department, but if you notice somebody sitting motionless in his or her office, staring at a blank wall, then amarkia could be the reason. However, there can be lots of other reasons why lecturers do this. Amarkia is particularly serious during the summer vacation, because the sufferer may go unnoticed for several weeks, but is sometimes picked up at an early stage when the partner of the sufferer phones up to ask where he or she is. Treatment involves giving the sufferer some marking to do until eumarkia (see below) is achieved, but not too much, in case markophobia, dysmarkia or even markolepsy, develop.


This is a healthy state because it is caused by having just the right amount of marking. This is where you feel you’ve done a great job, satisfied yourself that the large amounts of comments (that you always write on the scripts, indicating you do not suffer blankmarkia) have been done with maximum care and thought, so that the students get the best feedback. Eumarkia is always accompanied by completion of marking within the designated time period, so the students get the feedback and grade before they’ve forgotten what the work was all about. In the purest form of eumarkia, the results are given in a perfectly complete spreadsheet with no fails (demonstrating synergy between your teaching and student performance). Hopefully the students will have done so well that you can claim Added Value, and the icing on the cake is achieved if there is no male under-achievement. Sadly these days, eumarkia is rarely encountered. Remember that eumarkia can cause problems in conversation because it can be mistaken for bouncing markophobia (YOU mark it !!). Warning: if you are in the state of eumarkia, maybe you haven’t got enough work to do; keep your head down and say nothing.


inability to mark. This impairment results from marking overload and can be recognised when the sufferer is seen walking randomly about the department, crashing into walls and doorframes. In the refectory, a dysmarkic may miss his/her mouth while drinking a hot drink, leading to further distress. Early signs of an acute attack include the inability to recognise your partner two times in three attempts. Treatment is to gently guide the patient back to his/her office to be placed in the recovery position (see later).


A transitory condition of total restfulness which exists just after completing a set of marking. There is a longer period of marktopia after the final exam board. But do not worry because, happily, the next set of marking (during the September resit period) is not all that far away. Nevertheless remember that soon after the onset of marktopia it is necessary to get yourself into the recovery position, otherwise amarkia may set in; or take a holiday - go on, you deserve it.

Arrested Marktopia:

this is where you thought the marking was finished, but then discover there is more to do. Treatment: stay calm, it will be over soon.


An unusual condition where two or more markers can't agree on a mark. The principal sign of schizomarkia is a protracted series of emails and counter-emails, which may become steadily more aggressive. Treatment is administered by the department's registered marking first-aider (often the subject leader) who dashes to the rescue and sorts out the mark.


An extremely rare condition, where one or both legs are constantly jigged up-and-down or side-to-side while marking. There is no known cure, even placing in the recovery position will not help, and can even make things worse. Once triggered, the sufferer exhibits the signs of marko-epilepsy in normal life; then the first aider is unable to distinguish marko-epilepsy from such conditions as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or even from Piles.

Recovery position: Unlike normal first aid, a special form of recovery position is required for marking disorders: sitting upright at a computer, typing that paper for an international journal, which you have not been able to do for the last six months. Upright posture maintains an open airway and allows the stresses of marking to drain away from affected parts of the brain. Complete recovery is normally within a couple of hours, but up to 2-3 days following a particularly heavy marking period.


1. These conditions were written up during a marktopic phase.

2. This epitaph was recently seen on the grave of a lecturer, and is a warning to us all: Death is nature's way of telling you to do less marking.

Steve Kershaw
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