kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,
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kheru2006

Read question correctly, Don’t be too harsh, we are not robots, Exams test real-world skills

Exams test real-world skills

I refer to the letter “Error in reading exam question” (The Star, Nov 9).

According to the author, the question was: “If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live?”

I am no language maven, yet I had no problems reading it the first time the way it was meant to be interpreted. There was not even the slightest hint of ambiguity. The question was simple, the wording plain, and I cannot think of a more straightforward manner in which it could have been rephrased. It was by all means a delightful question, credit to the excellent folk at the Examination Syndicate.

I might have tolerated the argument had it been phrased “another part of the country” instead of “another part of Malaysia”. But when the name of our dear motherland “MALAYSIA” is there clear as day for all to see, I cannot fathom how one could even start thinking about other countries, unless they somehow had visual hallucinations of words like “beyond”, “outside”, or “world”, which were nowhere to be seen.

It is also highly unlikely that the author held a post-exam vox populi to be able to claim that many other students “wrote about living in Korea, Britain, Bali, Switzerland, Mecca, Madina, and etc” – I doubt they did.

To blame mistakes made on “immense examination pressure” or “limited time” seems like a handy cover-up for inadequate exam prep, poor management of time allocated, or perhaps a candidate’s over-confidence resulting in failure to double-check the one prompt which he or she was supposed to write an entire essay on.

As much as it is true that school performance has little bearing on one’s success later in life, written examinations certainly do test a few real-world skills such as thoroughness, precision, and the ability to think clearly under stress.

I certainly would not trust a lawyer who cannot interpret correctly a simple sentence like this to draft my legal documents, or a pharmacist prone to dreaming up non-existent words in my prescription, or an obstetrician who is unable to distinguish an intrauterine pregnancy from a life-threatening extrauterine one (within the womb vs outside)!

Mrs Lim Kuala Lumpur The STAR Opinion Letters November 11, 2017


Don’t be too harsh, we are not robots

I REFER to the letters “Read question correctly” by Samuel Yesuiah and “Mistakes can be made but be accountable too” by A Concerned Parent, concerning the English SPM 2017 Paper 1 (The Star, Nov 10).

Examiners need to focus on what the exam paper is actually testing. In this case it is proficiency in the English language, that is, good vocabulary, expressions and accuracy of language as explained by Yesuiah.

If a student has fulfilled these criteria he should be given an “A” irrespective of misreading the question. I agree that he should not be penalised severely and agree to the proposal not to deduct more than three points.

Yesuiah gave a good example of the need to be understanding as in the Miss World pageant finals where a candidate went on the win the contest although she spoke of Mother Teresa, who had already died, when asked to speak of a living legend she admired.

I recall an incident in a university exam; I handed in my paper without realising that there where more questions to answer on the other side of the last page. The lecturer in charge took me into his office immediately after the exam and had me answer those questions.

In another case, I was given the marks the lecturer felt I deserved although I could not attend the final examination because my father passed away on that day. In most university exams, lecturers have already decided on the grade a student deserves before the final exam. The exam itself is more to confirm the grade the student deserves.

The statement by A Concerned Parent, “...the student should be accountable and responsible for his/her own action. No excuses must be given and accepted” is too harsh. We are not robots.

I also feel the need to warn parents about being overly concerned about their children scoring straight As. Building an all-rounded character and personality is far more important. To err is human, to forgive divine.

Dr Peter J Pereira Subang Indah The STAR Opinion Letters November 11, 2017

Read question correctly

‘IF you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice.’

This was in the English SPM 2017 Paper 1 Continuous Writing section. In this section, five essay topics were given. Students had to select one and write 350 – 400 words on it.

It was reported that some SPM students misunderstood the question and wrote about living in other countries instead.

The Continuous Writing section is marked based on impression.

The student is to write the essay based on their experiences, thoughts or reflections.

The examiner will read the script and mark the paper on good vocabulary, expressions and accuracy of language.

Minor and gross errors in writing will be underlined and noted.

The writing is assessed based against the most appropriate band.

The marks in highest band A – range from 44 – 50, that is, full marks.

The criteria for Band A is as follows:

> Language – entirely accurate, with occasional first draft slips;

> Sentence structures, varied and sophisticated – achieve particular effect;

> Vocabulary – wide and precise – shades of meaning;

> Punctuation and spelling – accurate and helpful;

> Paragraphs – well-planned, unified and linked;

> Topic – consistently relevant; and

> Interest – aroused and sustained throughout writing.

It can be seen that an A script should have accurate and precise language and be interesting.

There is a criterion that stipulates that the topic should be consistently relevant.

Based on this, it would be difficult for a student to get Band A even if he had written an error- free piece about moving and living outside Malaysia because the question is about moving and living within Malaysia.

Generally, based on experience, markers will place the student in Band B (38 – 43).

Putting the student in Band A will be unfair to other students who wrote good essays on the topic consistently.

Ultimately the Malaysian Examination Syndicate (MES) will decide on this ‘error in reading exam question’ and will brief the Examination Panel on how to assess the students.

If many students committed this error in reading, which I think may not be many because the ques­tion is direct, then MES might decide they be dropped a Band.

Examination pressure, time and other factors can impact students when they read exam questions and answer them.

Good students are able to meet these challenges and overcome them and achieve excellence.

Some years ago in the Miss World pageant finals, there was a section where the contestants were asked questions in English to test their language and knowledge.

One contestant was asked to talk about a living legend she admired and the contestant talked about Mother Theresa and her contributions.

She spoke eloquently about Mother Theresa and mesmerised the audience and the judges.

The contestant went on to win the Miss World title that year not withstanding that Mother Theresa had died three years before.

Samuel Yesuiah Seremban The STAR Opinion Letters November 10, 2017

Tags: assessment, english, exam, grades
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