The ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio) is the Brazilian national exam taken by high school graduates (from public and private systems). In 2013 the October exam will be taken by the amazing number of 7.17 million participants. The grade on the exam is accepted as the only criterion for access at an increasing number of universities around the country, often replacing the vestibular, the admission examination prepared independently by each university.
The way the written text is graded has been the most polemic aspect of the exam. Since 2012 the Ministry of Education (the organization responsible for the exam) has allowed access to the corrected texts. Since then, examples of humorous texts that received the maximum grades popped-up in the media, including essays with alarming grammatical errors, cake recipes, or even the anthem of a soccer team. In light of these facts, the Ministry announced that the correction criteria will be more rigorous this year. Two correctors will evaluate each exam, and if there is a discrepancy above 200 points (out of a total of 1000), the text will be corrected by a third person. The estimate is that more than 50% of the texts will go through three corrections. Therefore, the Ministry also announced a 70% increase in the number of professionals contracted to correct the exam to a total of 9.5 thousand readers. These professionals go through a distance-training course of 136 hours, and can correct the exams from home. The fee paid for each corrected text is R$ 3.00 (about US$ 1.40).
Although assessing the written skills of students is a valuable initiative, the logistics of implementing this on such a large scale, taking into consideration the extent of open-ended questions and essays, the number of people involved, and all possible variables in the process are daunting, to say the least. How is it possible to guarantee the quality and uniformity of grading? How can the Ministry avoid the problems of correction on a massive scale including the tendency to cluster grades towards the average? How to manage the right of each candidate to ask for a revision of the grade with the subsequent costs? Considering that the final grade in the ENEM is critical for the future of thousands of young students in Brazil, these questions need to be addressed and debated.