HSC Marking: The good and the bad
I have just finished an exhausting two weeks of HSC marking. For those not in Australia, HSC stands for Higher School Certificate and is the final secondary examination in the state of NSW. The examination is the final, rather daunting conclusion to the last two years of secondary school. I often describe it to my students as their right of passage. It’s certainly the closest thing contemporary society in NSW recognises as the change from child to adult.
Marking is done en mass in a set location. It’s an interesting process to go through as all sorts of secrecy surround the actual exam papers. No comment on individual papers is, understandably, allowed.
In order to become an HSC marker you need to be currently teaching the subject. You apply through the Board of Studies Markers Online website. Your principal is normally required to verify and support your application. Markers generally comprises a mix of new markers (me) and those who have been marking for years.
The experience of marking was rewarding in many ways. I walked away realising that I do teach (or try to teach) my students the right information and, importantly, how to use that information in answering exam questions. I was also impressed by how well organised the marking system is, how many check and balances are put in place to ensure students are fairly treated and finally I was impressed by my fellow markers. They were professional and collegial. They felt for the nameless students we were marking and it was often that you’d hear the groan that meant a student who’d performed well in part of a question had misread, and therefore, bombed out on a latter part of the question.
What I wasn’t so much impressed by was how poorly some of the exam questions are worded. How often questions are worded or presented in such a way as to confuse students rather than to try to measure their level of knowledge. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the quality of many of the responses although, to be fair to the students studying this particular subject, it has more to do with the overwhelming amount of material they have to cover than their ability. Nonetheless it is surprising how many students spend two years at school preparing for exams such as these only to write half a page, a page or, in some cases nothing. I’m sure that says something about our system I’m just not sure what.
…and now I get my life back after having spent two weeks working all day, all night and all day Saturday. 🙂