Using the criteria

It is good practice to use the assessment criteria regularly in class. Students should have quick and easy handouts of the criteria that can be used at any given moment. Even though a form of assessment, such as the Paper 1 exam, is externally assessed, students and teachers can practice applying the criteria. As you practice using the criteria, several questions will most likely come up. Here is a brief overview of frequently asked questions that relate to the use of assessment criteria.

How should I apply the criteria?

It is good practice to assess students from the bottom up. Start at the lowest descriptors of a criterion and ask yourself if the student has achieved this level. Work your way up until you have found the descriptors that adequately describe the student’s performance. Do not deduct marks for what students missed. Award marks for what they included. You may not award half marks, such as 6.5. In such cases, round the marks up.

Are the descriptors different between SL and HL?

As you look at the descriptors in the external assessment criteria, you will notice that HL students are expected to understand the texts and topics in greater depth. They are expected to understand literary features and their effects to a greater extent. They are expected to organize their ideas more coherently and effectively. For example where students must have an 'excellent' understanding of texts at HL in order to earn a 5 for criterion A,SL student only need a 'very good' understanding of texts.

For the internal assessment, teachers will note that there is no differentiation between HL and SL in the descriptors. Differentiation is only made in the use of grade boundaries.

Why does the descriptor jump from 'good' to 'excellent'? What happened to 'very good'?

You will notice in the Language A: Language and Literature guide that some of the descriptors at HL make a sudden jump from one mark band to the next at HL. Whereas a student must have a 'good understanding of the texts' on criterion A for Paper 1 at HL to score a 4, he/she must have an 'excellent understanding' to earn a 5. At HL the mark ranges are the same as at SL (1-5, 1-8 or 1-10, depending on the form of assessment), but at HL the descriptors must cover a greater range of performance. It is for this reason that the descriptors jump from one adjective to the next.

What if a student's performance touches on different bands WITHIN a criterion?

You may find that students score differently on the various aspects of a criterion. For example, for Paper 2 at HL a student may “pertinently illustrate knowledge of the Part 3 works and how context affects their meaning,” which is found in grade band 4 of criterion A. But the student’s understanding of a work may only be “satisfactory”, which is found in grade band 3 of criterion A. In this case examiners and teachers should award the student a 4 for this criterion. Always award the higher of the two marks when students score differently on separate aspects of a criterion.

Are the grade boundaries the same for SL and HL students?

The grade boundaries between HL and SL are always different. Examiners look at the results each year and set grade boundaries accordingly. For example, in a given year a student may score 19 out of 30 for the Paper 1 at HL and receive a 4 out of 7, while an SL student with the same score may receive a 5. In another year, 19 out of 30 may merit a 5 out of 7 at HL. These grade boundaries are determined by a team of examiners at a grade award meeting in Cardiff for each exam session.

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