May 2013, considered

Saturday 3 August 2013

Here are some quick preliminary comments based on what I have heard about how the whole May13 marking session has gone, under the new assessment system. These are merely indications of what will appear in much more detail in the full English B Subject Report, to be published in September. So here goes, in the order in which they were marked ...

Written Assignment   The indications are that this new component worked pretty well, in the sense that (i) students appeared to carry out the required tasks (different at HL and SL) very competently, and (ii) the marking process functioned with few problems in applying the new Criteria. Interestingly, the SL procedure (devising a text type based on three unseen texts) appears to have caused no problems whatsoever for the students - indeed, marks for SL overall were remarkably, even embarrassingly, high! The downside? I hear that neither at HL nor at SL did students make sufficient reference to the source text(s) - they produced good writing, perhaps, but poorly connected with the source. The most serious problems came at SL, where examiners were badly over-worked trying to read the source texts - the worst case being one school which ignored the specific instructions and provided three different full-length texts for each student's script !

Oral IA   The new procedure for the interview appears to have been a real success. The basic structure is simpler - only two Parts, both based on the stimulus photograph; the choice of photographs was generally very good, and in most cases encouraged lively discussion; and the fact that the photos were directly related to topics studied in class meant that both students and teachers had a solid background of ideas to draw on. Finally, the fact that students' presentations were created in 15 minutes of preparation meant that there was no 'over-preparation' - the syndrome observable under the old system where the presentation exhibited ridiculously better language than the (spontaneous) language in the rest of the interview. The downside? ... a few very boring photos, about which there was little to say; and a few teachers who seemed to think that the only thing that they could talk about was the photograph itself, in tedious detail, and never widened out (as the Subject Guide clearly requires) to discussing the whole topic area.

Paper 1   I hear that the general impression is that both the stimulus texts and the questions asked about them have been perceived as slightly more challenging than the former Paper 1s. However, not seriously so, since the vast majority of students performed very competently - they coped. There was no evidence that giving one more text to handle at each level caused time pressure, presumably because the disappearance of the Written Response compensated. A final detail: I am told that the worst-handled question type was the True/False + justification - significantly, since this is the most challenging task, requiring the skilful combination of accurate interpretation with relevant evidence.

Paper 2    This remains the most problematic component - principally because the Scoris e-marking system is still not really efficiently organised. The key to the successful use of Scoris (a perfectly achievable goal, not yet achieved) lies in the precision of instructions given to the examiners. Such precision is hideously difficult to achieve ... I promise you, on the basis now of six sessions as Principal Examiner using Scoris ! This was made slightly more problematic in this session because of the new format of the Paper 2, particularly at HL, with the new Personal Response element. The basic writing tasks (in HL Section A, and at SL) are actually little different. The main change was the 'conventions' under Criterion C, but we managed to anticipate difficulties through the Marking Notes, and there seems to have been little problem there. The Personal Response is going to have to be thought through in more detail, I feel - there was an impression that neither students, nor examiners, nor indeed the paper setters, really had a clear idea of what was expected. So that is work in progress ...

Overall, then, it seems that the new assessment system in English B has worked pretty well - there are issues to manage, but these are on the way to being resolved successfully.


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