Aus_Autarch left a fascinating (and horrifying) series of comments on one of my earlier posts. The gist of it is that you can get a pass by scoring 16 out of 160 in your final high school exams. I thought a pass mark was 50% - how little I know.
Here is the comment in full:
It is far worse than that. According to the statistics at the official site of the Victorian Department of Education (VCAA), 94.5 percent of individuals undertaking the senior mathematics stream (Mathematical Methods (CAS)) pass ( link. ).
Correlating this pass rate with the previous data shown of the percentages to attain specific grades ( link. ), and assuming that the students who did not attain a pass were also those attaining the lowest grades, it appears that a student needs to get approximately 16 marks out of the available 160 to be passing.
Checking further, you can see the actual exam (( link. ), and see that 22 of the questions, are multiple choice. It is not impossible to attain the necessary marks by sheer random selection and be in the passing range without demonstrating any knowledge under examination conditions.
This is the most pessimistic outlook, however. It is necessary, for the purposes of realism, to accept that it is unlikely that a student achieving such low scores is unlikely to continue their education into a study that would have a mathematical pre-requisite. This then does bring up the question of why it was necessary to award a statement of satisfactory completion, if both the demonstrated competence and potential need for the qualification are both absent...
As a layman, let me see if I can unravel this. If I stuff it up, please let me know in the comments.
For starters, exams are no longer the be-all and end-all of your results. Coursework now accounts for a certain amount.
Second, exams now have lots of multiple choice questions - a problem when you need 50% to pass, but not a problem when you only need to get 16 correct.
Third, a fail is no longer 49% and below. A "C" used to mean 50% or more. Now, it appears to mean 43% or more. WTF!!!
Just for fun, I went to the Board of Studies site and did a test exam with 50 multiple guess questions. The course was Latin - something I know less than nothing about. I chose "C" for every answer - and got 22% correct. Which is about what you'd expect. It took me about 2 minutes to tick those 50 answers and come out with 22%. In this day and age, that counts as a "D".
I also tried two sample exams in subjects I know something about - got over 85% in both of them, and it took me less than a quarter of the allowed time to finish the exams. Not bad, considering I've never studied the current curriculum for either subject.
Here is the first link that Aus_Autarch provided - it's the results from the Victorian 2009 Maths exams. Don't ask me what all that Maths is - I had a look at the exam papers, and none of it made sense. I know that I studied it 25 years ago, but I haven't used any of it since, and it's all leaked out of my brain.
What the table below is telling us is that over 95% of students doing this course were awarded a "satisfactory completion". Yippee, you say - lots of smart kids who know a lot of Maths.
I suggest you hang on to your chair - the results are less than pleasant. Because what we need to find out is this - what exactly is a "satisfactory completion"?
The next three tables provide some idea. The first table gives coursework scores, and the next two are the results from two exams.
Coursework is graded out of 100. A "C" is 43-51 out of 100. Unbelievable. 22% scored less than 51%.
Exam 1 is out of 80. A "C" is 24 out of 80 or above - 30% in other words. 30% scored less than 33 out of 80. 46% got a C+, ie, scored 34-45 (42.5% - 56%). Let's just assume that 40% didn't score 50% in this exam (are you following me?)
Exam 2 is out of 160. A "C" is 60-73 out of 160 - 37.5%-45.6%. Interestingly, 37% scored a "C" or lower.
How can it be then that over 95% of students doing this course got a "satisfactory completion"?
The incredibly depressing answer appears to be that the "pass mark" in order to get a "satisfactory completion" is a "D" or better.
Here is what a "D" is worth:
Coursework - score of 20-31 out of 100.
Exam 1 - score of 9-14 out of 80.
Exam 2 - score of 34-46 out of 160.
In other words, it's possible to scrape a "satisfactory completion" by getting a total of 63 marks out of 340. That's 18.5% correct in your coursework and exams, and 81.5% wrong.
Oh, fuck me. We're doomed. As I showed with the Latin exam, if the kids are doing a lot of multiple choice exams, they could get a "satisfactory complete" almost entirely by putting down "C" as their answer.
If you want to test yourself, have a look at this exam paper for "Further Mathematics". It's 100% multiple choice. Whatever happened to working out the answer, and showing your full working?