The VCAA Dies Another Death

A while back we pointed out two issues with the 2018 Specialist Mathematics Exams. The Exam Reports (though, strangely, not Exam 1) are now online (here and here). (Update 27/02/19: Exam 1 is now also online.) Ignoring some fresh Hell suggested by the Exam 2 Report (B2(b), B3(c)(i), B6(e)), how did the VCAA address these issues?

Question 3(f) on Section B of Exam 2 was a clumsy and eccentrically worded question that covered material outside the curriculum. Unsurprisingly the Report made no mention of these issues. But, what about a blatant error by the Examiners? Would they remain silent in the face of such an error? Again?

Question 6 on Exam 1 (not online) required students to find the “change in momentum” of an accelerating particle. Unfortunately, the students were required to express this change in kg m s-2. The Exam had included the wrong units, just a careless typo, but a blatant error. The Report addressed this blatant error with the following:

Students who interpreted this question as asking for the average rate of change of momentum to be dimensionally consistent with the units and did this correctly were awarded marks accordingly.

That’s it. Not an honest word of having stuffed up. Not a hint of regret or apology. Just some weasely no-harm-no-foul bullshit.



6 Replies to “The VCAA Dies Another Death”

  1. You mean just like the 2016 Maths Methods Exam 2 Report where the comment was made regarding Q3(h)(ii) that

    “As function f is a close approximation of the probability density function, answers to the nearest integer were accepted.”

    despite the exam question saying

    “The probability density function for battery life …. Find the median battery life …. correct to two decimal places.”

    (no mention of the pdf being approximate, and 2 dp is the clearly stated accuracy required for the answer).

    I’m shocked!

    On a less facetious note, I’m aware that some teachers, as well as some mathematics organisations, have sought clarification on the comments made in the 2018 Exam 1 Report, and the failure to publish Exam 1 in a timely manner, and have been meet with stony silence so far.

    I’m also aware that the schools of some of those teachers who sought clarification are now being audited for SAC 1 …. Who likes a good conspiracy theory? (And I wonder what the audit report will say if those teachers use SACs modelled on ones written a couple of years ago by a well known SAC auditor?)

    I expected the weasely comments in the Exam 1 Report. I expected to hear of teachers waiting for answers to their queries (I’m sure appropriately weasely replies will eventually arrive). I even expected to hear of some retaliatory auditing. The most troubling aspect for me is the failure to publish the 2018 Exam 1 after more than 3 months ….

    P.S. In NSW, NESA publishes HSC maths exams and reports within a week or so after the exam ….

    1. Thanks, John. Yes, the VCAA Reports have a long and proud history of greasy cowardice. Perhaps the worst example of which I am aware is from 2014, when “random variable” on the Methods Exam 2 was changed without notice to “continuous random variable” on the Report. This amounted to a blatant lie which, as it happened, didn’t fix the error on the exam.

      You say the most troubling aspect is the clearly ridiculous delay in publishing the exam (and the reports), but I might disagree. If (and it’s a big if) some schools – any school – are having their SACs audited in retaliation for querying VCAA practice, that is reprehensible and clear grounds for formal complaint. As it stands, I have no circumstantial evidence, much less solid evidence, that this is the case. Over the years, a number of teachers have expressed to me their loathing for the VCAA, while also making clear that they would not query the VCAA nor make public criticism, exactly because they feared such retaliation. I have always been sceptical, and still am; I regard the VCAA as smugly inept rather than vindictive. But, I am willing to be convinced.

      As for SACs in general, the whole system is obviously a student-torturing and teacher-torturing disaster. It’s so amorphous, however, that it’s difficult to properly attack. We’re working on it …

  2. A copy of 2018 Specialist Maths Exam 1 finally appeared on the VCAA website today 27 Feb 2019, 110 days after students sat it.

    I agree with your comments about SACs. The original philosophy was to replace the system of Common Assessment Tasks (CATs) with a system that was more robust against cheating. And the original philosophy of the CAT was to provide an assessment instrument different to exams. Somewhere along the way the whole philosophy of that has been completely corrupted.

    I think the evidence of vindictiveness (and of *favouritism*) will always be circumstantial. Which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur.

    I think ‘pompously and obstinately inept’ has a better ring to it.

  3. Ugg. I really can’t imagine that sort of cowardice for a mistake on an AP exam. In the (very rare) case of an error like that, they would just fess up.

    But really, why so many errors like this? I realize this is just a province of a minor country. But still, we are talking about a pretty big exam. (How many students take it?) Not some local teacher. Just think it would be caught in normal test development.

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