Laboratory-based practical exercises, which are an important and time-consuming part of many science degree courses, may be directed towards a variety of learning objectives. Some of these have traditionally been assessed by staff marking the student's written account of the laboratory experiment (the laboratory write-up) but increasing student numbers, which may have doubled or quadrupled on some modules, have made it difficult to sustain this approach. In addition, there is evidence that the formative element of the assessment (i.e. the comments written by staff on the laboratory write-up) is not fully utilized by students who are often only interested in the mark given. This paper reports on experience with the various strategies which may be used to cope with the increased marking load while maintaining or improving the learning gain from the formative element of the assessment. The adoption of a balanced mixture of strategies may present the best solution to the problem but must be tailored to local circumstances
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