I was browsing through the Chief Examiner’s report (as one does) for the Junior Cert science exam 2006 and found buried amongst all the text and statistics the following unbelievable nugget: the average mark for the written exam was 55%.
I couldn’t find any data on 2007 or 2008, so I don’t know if things have changed in the meantime or not.
This is after three years work. In hindsight it would have been more useful if it was one percentage point lower in that we could then conclude that the average mark didn’t merit an honour and maybe drastic action could have been taken. Maybe for that matter action has been taken, but again I couldn’t find any comment or reference to this anythere.
I can see why this statistic didn’t cause a furore at the time: the overall mark turned out to be 67%, so most students would have been (relatively) happy with that. This was due to the combining of the written exam with the two other sections.
Coursework A: (recording of experiment work over the three years) is worth 10% of the overall mark and the average mark here was 98%.
Coursework B: (based on a report of two seperate investigations) is worth 25% of the overall mark and the average mark here was 85%.
The standard explanantion for this is that students no longer have a choice in the paper, so all questions need to be answered. This is certainly a large contributory factor, but when I looked over the papers for 2006, 2007 and 2008 there was another shock. I concentrated on Physics and found that the hardest topic – Electricity – accounted for over one fifth of all the marks on the physics sections.
Three other sections featured very strongly; Heat, Light and Energy, and all other topics were then very much hit-or-miss as regards whether they featured or not.
Some of the questions within each section were also ridiculous. I have listed some of the worst offenders in a submission to the editor of SCIENCE, the in-house journal for members of the ISTA (Irish Science Teachers Association). The full article can be accessed below: on the top-right there is the option to toggle for the full screen.
I included in the document a link to this posting so hopefully we will receive some feedback (the next edition of the journal goes out towards the end of May) .
What think you?