The Troubling Cosiness of the VCAA and the MAV

It seems that what amounts to VCE exam marking schemes may be available for purchase through the Mathematical Association of Victoria. This seems very strange, and we’re not really sure what is going on, but we shall give our current sense of it. (It should be noted at the outset that we are no fan of the MAV in its current form, nor of the VCAA in any form: though we are trying hard here to be straightly factual, our distaste for these organisations should be kept in mind.)

Each year, the MAV sells VCE exam solutions for the previous year’s exams. It is our understanding that it is now the MAV’s strong preference that these solutions will be written by VCAA assessors. Further, the MAV is now advertising that these solutions are “including marking allocations“. We assume that the writers are paid by the MAV for this work, and we assume that the MAV are profiting from the selling of the product, which is not cheap. Moreover, the MAV also hosts Meet the Assessors events which, again, are not cheap and are less cheap for non-members of the MAV. Again, it is reasonable to assume that the assessors and/or the MAV profit from these events.

We do not understand any of this. One would think that simple equity requires that any official information regarding VCE exams and solutions should be freely available. What we understand to be so available are very brief solutions as part of VCAA’s examiners’ reports, and that’s it. In particular, it is our understanding that VCAA marking schemes have been closely guarded secrets. If the VCAA is loosening up on that, then that’s great. If, however, VCAA assessors and/or the MAV are profiting from such otherwise unavailable information, we do not understand why anyone should regard that as acceptable. If, on the other hand, the MAV and/or the assessors are not so profiting, we do not understand the product and the access that the MAV is offering for sale.

We have written previously of the worrying relationship between the VCAA and the MAV, and there is plenty more to write. On more than one occasion the MAV has censored valid criticism of the VCAA, conduct which makes it difficult to view the MAV as a strong or objective or independent voice for Victorian maths teachers. The current, seemingly very cosy relationship over exam solutions, would only appear to make matters worse. When the VCAA stuffs up an exam question, as they do on a depressingly regular basis, why should anyone trust the MAV solutions to provide an honest summary or evaluation of that stuff up?

Again, we are not sure what is happening here. We shall do our best to find out, and commenters, who may have a better sense of MAV and VCAA workings, may comment (carefully) below.

UPDATE (13/02/20)

As John Friend has indicated in his comment, the “marking allocations” appears to be nothing but the trivial annotation of solutions with the allotted marks, not a break-down of what is required to achieve those marks. So, simply a matter of the MAV over-puffing their product. As for the appropriateness of the MAV being able to charge to “meet” VCAA assessors, and for solutions produced by assessors, those issues remain open.

We’ve also had a chance to look at the MAV 2019 Specialist solutions (not courtesy of JF, for those who like to guess such things.) More pertinent would be the Methods solutions (because of this, this, this and, especially, this.) Still, the Specialist solutions were interesting to read (quickly), and some comments are in order. In general, we thought the solutions were pretty good: well laid out with usually, though not always, the seemingly best approach indicated. There were a few important theoretical errors (see below), although not errors that affected the specific solutions. The main general and practical shortcoming is the lack of diagrams for certain questions, which would have made those solutions significantly clearer and, for the same reason, should be encouraged as standard practice.

For the benefit of those with access to the Specialist solutions (and possibly minor benefit to others), the following are brief comments on the solutions to particular questions (with section B of Exam 2 still to come); feel free to ask for elaboration in the comments. The exams are here and here.

Exam 1

Q5. There is a Magritte element to the solution and, presumably, the question.

Q6. The stated definition of linear dependence is simply wrong. The problem is much more easily done using a 3 x 3 determinant.

Q7. Part (a) is poorly set out and employs a generally invalid relationship between Arg and arctan. Parts (c) and (d) are very poorly set out, not relying upon the much clearer geometry.

Q8. A diagram, even if generic, is always helpful for volumes of revolution.

Q9. The solution to part (b) is correct, but there is an incorrect reference to the forces on the mass, rather than the ring. The expression  “… the tension T is the same on both sides …” is hopelessly confused.

Q10. The question is stupid, but the solutions are probably as good as one can do.

Exam 2 (Section A)

MCQ5. The answer is clear, and much more easily obtained, from a rough diagram.

MCQ6. The formula Arg(a/b) = Arg(a) – Arg(b) is used, which is not in general true.

MCQ11. A very easy question for which two very long and poorly expressed solutions are given.

MCQ12. An (always) poor choice of formula for the vector resolute leads to a solution that is longer and significantly more prone to error. (UPDATE 14/2: For more on this question, go here.)

MCQ13. A diagram is mandatory, and the cosine rule alternative should be mentioned.

MCQ14. It is easier to first solve for the acceleration, by treating the system as a whole.

MCQ19. A slow, pointless use of CAS to check (not solve) the solution of simultaneous equations.

UPDATE (14/02/20)

For more on MCQ12, go here.

UPDATE (14/02/20)

Exam 2 (Section B)

Q1. In Part (a), the graphs are pointless, or at least a distant second choice; the choice of root is trivial, since y = tan(t) > 0. For part (b), the factorisation \boldsymbol{x^2-2x =x(x-2)} should be noted. In part (c), it is preferable to begin with the chain rule in the form \boldsymbol{dy/dt = dy/dx \times dx/dt}, since no inverses are then required. Part (d) is one of those annoyingly vague VCE questions, where it is impossible to know how much computation is required for full marks; the solutions include a couple of simplifications after the definite integral is established, but God knows whether these extra steps are required.

Q2. The solution to Part (c) is very poorly written. The question is (pointlessly) difficult, which means clear signposts are required in the solution; the key point is that the zeroes of the polynomial will be symmetric around (-1,0), the centre of the circle from part (b). The output of the quadratic formula is neccessarily a mess, and may be real or imaginary, but is manipulated in a clumsy manner. In particular, a factor of -1 is needlessly taken out of the root, and the expression “we expect” is used in a manner that makes no sense. The solution to the (appallingly written) Part (d) is ok, though the centre of the circle is clear just from symmetry, and we have no idea what “ve(z)” means.

Q3. There is an aspect to the solution of this question that is so bad, we’ll make it a separate post. (So, hold your fire.)

Q4. Part (a) is much easier than the notation-filled solution makes it appear.

Q5. Part (c)(i) is weird. It is a 1-point question, and so presumably just writing down the intuitive answer, as is done in the solutions, is what was expected and is perhaps reasonable. But the intuitive answer is not that intuitive, and an easy argument from considering the system as a whole (see MCQ14) seems (mathematically) preferable. For Part (c)(ii), it is more straight-forward to consider the system as a whole, making the tension redundant (see MCQ14). The first (and less preferable) solution to Part (d) is very confusing, because the two stages of computation required are not clearly separated.

Q6. It’s statistical inference: we just can’t get ourselves to care.

UPDATE (26/06/20)

The Specialist Maths examination reports are finally, finally out (here and here), so it seems worth revisiting the MAV “Assessor” solutions. In summary, the clumsiness of and errors in the MAV solutions as indicated above (and see also here and here) do not appear in the reports; in the main this is because the reports are pretty much silent on any aspect involving some subtlety. Sigh.

Some specific comments:

EXAM 1

Q5 Yes, Magritte-ish. Justifying that the critical points are extrema was not expected, meaning conscientious students wasted their time.

Q6 The error in the MAV solutions is ducked in the report.

Q7 The error in the MAV solutions is ducked in the report.

EXAM 2 (Section A)

MCQ6   The error in the MAV solutions is ducked in the report.

MCQ11 The report is silent.

MCQ12 A huge screw-up of a question, to which the report hemidemisemi confesses: see here.

MCQ14 The report suggests the better method for solving this problem.

EXAM 2 (Section B)

Q2 Jesus. This question was intrinsically confusing and very badly worded, with the students inevitably doing poorly. So, why the hell is the examination report almost completely silent? The MAV solutions were a mess, but the absence of comment in the report is disgraceful.

Q3 The solution in the report is ok, although more could have been written. But, it’s not the garbled nonsense of the MAV solution, as detailed here.

44 Replies to “The Troubling Cosiness of the VCAA and the MAV”

  1. I regularly purchase IB papers and marking schemes (it works out to about $3USD per paper, so not a lot but still not zero). I have no problem with this because the IB organisation is a private company, whose existence is not mandated by a government department. I assume without knowing that the IBO does not receive any tax-payer subsidies for its existence.

    I regularly download New South Wales HSC exam papers and marking guides. These are free. I feel this is OK because the NSW board of studies is (again, I assume) paid for with tax dollars.

    Hence I’m a bit puzzled this announcement from MAV.

    Has VCAA made a statement anywhere that anyone is aware of?

    1. Red Five, perhaps Marty will not want this published on his site, but the IB papers and marking guides can be found online for free if one is determined enough to search for them…

      1. Hi, SRK, I wouldn’t want any sites published here. But you are correct, one has to be only very slightly determined to find IB info online.

      2. Hmmm… I know of some less-than-reputable sites where these things can be found, but I prefer to do things above-board wherever possible. That said, if anyone ever publishes the old IB internal assessment tasks (from before the course structure was changed around 2010)…

    2. Hi, RF. Obviously a private enterprise such as IB is free to determine how it works things, and in any case the cost of solutions over and above the cost of IB is trivial. If NSW provides solutions and schemes for free, then obviously Victoria can as well.

          1. I’m trying (and failing) to give some benefit of doubt.

            Haven’t looked much at states other that Vic and NSW, but the difference seems to be enormous.

            Anyone here have any experience teaching outside of Vic (within Aus) and willing to make comment?

  2. Question: “why should anyone trust the MAV solutions to provide an honest summary or evaluation of that stuff up”

    Answer: You CANNOT trust the MAV solutions to do this. The evidence is irrefutable. An obvious example is the MAV solution to the 2016 Maths Methods Exam 2 Q3 (h). Those solutions are as silent on the erroneous pdf as the Examiners Report. In choosing to say nothing, the MAV solutions condone and therefore reinforce mathematics that is totally wrong. I wonder how many teachers are using these sources in good faith to guide their own teaching and learning and are therefore being led down the wrong track ….?

    There are MAV contract staff with very strong VCAA affiliations who are actively working to prevent VCAA exam errors being pointed out in MAV exam solutions.

  3. Assuming what you say is correct (and I have no reason to doubt you) this is very worrying.

    Not as worrying as the VIT, but Marty has already posted on that one (with a picture!)

    1. Well, you only have to look at any MAV solutions to a VCAA exam that had errors in it, and you will find no mention of that error. So it’s a matter of public record. An example, already mentioned, was the lack of comment on the erroneous pdf in the 2016 Methods Exam 2 solutions (Q3 part (h)).

      The exception is the MAV solutions to the VCAA Specialist Exam 1 prior to the 2019 Exam. Those solutions did make comment on the error in the unit of momentum. Quite rightly too, since I don’t see how a solution can be written for a question containing errors without the errors being pointed out. I happen to know the writer of those solutions, and the feedback he got from the vetter (someone with a very strong affiliation to VCAA) included words to the effect that

      “The comments about VCAA have to be removed. We are supposed to be writing solutions for MAV, not referring to VCAA.”

      Apparently no response was given to the inconvenient quesiton of how can accurate solutions be written without reference to the VCAA errors ….?

      Having VCAA Assessors vetting and writing solutions for the MAV creates a huge conflict of interest and the result appears to be solutions that do NOT provide an honest summary or evaluation of any VCAA errors. And some teachers (particularly inexperienced teachers) who use those solutions for guidance in their teaching and learning will be led astray.

      The 2019 Methods exams contained several errors, I wonder if they get mentioned in the MAV solutions? They certainly won’t get mentioned in the Examiners Report (when VCAA finally decides to publish it).

  4. The VCAA-marking-scheme-in-MAV-solutions event turns out to be a false storm in a false teacup.

    The solutions did not contain a marking allocation (apart from some screenshots of the exam questions and the marks they were worth) and the MAV has changed its advertisement for these solutions – the false phrase “including marking allocation” has been deleted.

    So the VCAA marking scheme remains a secret and the world is safe once more.

    However, important questions remain:

    1) How can there be no conflict of interest when Assessors are paid by the MAV to provide written solutions to VCAA exams and to deliver commentary on VCAA exams in MAV forums such as Meet the Assessors?

    There is actually a simple answer to this question – the promotion of products such as Meet the Assessors (and MAV exam solutions) is greatly exaggerated … [Marty deletion] (I’m surprised these MAV products don’t claim to cure baldness). Meet the Assessors is nothing more than an advance preview of the Examiners Report and would probably drop in popularity very quickly if the Examiners Report was available earlier in the year.

    (It makes me wonder – is the delay in the release of the Examiners Report by VCAA deliberate so that the MAV can profit from its Meet the Assessor product. Yet another cosy arrangement ….??)

    Meet the Assessors is [Marty deletion] disappointing that it is (apparently) incredibly popular (in other words, a huge money maker for the MAV). Teachers either suffer from a massive FOMO, or are happy to be completely sucked in by a product that over-promises (big time) but under-delivers (big time). Or maybe teachers think “This time it will be different” ….

    2) How can the MAV advertise a product and not know whether what’s said in the advertisement is true of false?

    In this instance, an email inquiry directly asked whether or not the marking allocation was the official VCAA marking scheme – the answer was, more or less, “I suppose so because the solutions are written by VCAA Assessors”.

    That’s not good enough. Clearly it wasn’t checked. Even after the rather pointed inquiry. It was only after a phone call several days later, when the MAV solutions had been viewed and the advertised claim was seen to be obviously false, that led to MAV actually checking and conceding that the advertisement was false.

    [Marty deletion]

    The arrangement between VCAA and the MAV could certainly be described by a word that starts with the letters “co”, but cosy is not the word I’m thinking of ….

    What’s that saying about sleeping with dogs and catching fleas ….?

    1. So the MAV is up to its old tricks again of “over-puffing their product”:

      The MAV newsletter Matrix (emailed periodically to subscribers) is falsely advertising the solutions as featuring the marking allocation.

      Despite being advised of this error (03/03/2020), the MAV is yet (as of 09/03/202) to amend the advertisement and re-send the newsletter. I wonder how many solutions have been sold in the meantime on the basis that the buyer thinks s/he is getting the marking allocation?

      Hopefully Marty’s ‘product review’ is now in wide circulation and teachers are not getting sucked in.

        1. Or just don’t give a damn because they know that at the end of the day, maths teachers won’t give a damn.

          I’m calling this out: A lot of what VCAA and commercial organisations get away with is due to teachers generally being just too busy to care in any meaningful way – happy to complain but beyond that, it’s just not a priority. It’s this ipso facto acceptance by teachers of mediocrity and incompetence from VCAA and others that is the underlying problem. VCAA and others know this and that’s why they get away with it with relative impunity.

          1. Hi, JF. Sure, no question MAV cares little for quality or accuracy.

            As for teachers in general, I think it’s a mix. There are a few, and way too few, such as yourself, who are outspoken. There are many more who realise that at least some aspects of Victorian/Australian education are seriously screwed, but can see no value in complaining or, worse, fear backlash if they complain. (More than one teacher has indicated the latter to me.) I really, really wish there were more teachers calling out garbage when they see it, but I can understand why they don’t. But, I think the overwhelming problem is that the majority of teachers have no proper sense of how awful things are. They are a product of the same idiot system that they now ignorantly inflict upon others.

  5. Thanks, JF. I’ve decided to leave your comment up, but make some deletions. I’m reluctant to delete, for the predictable reason that I’m happy to see the VCAA and MAV receive overdue criticism, but also for the fundamental reason that I don’t want to discourage honest discussion, whether or not I agree. You obviously make some important points, and thanks very much for getting to the bottom of it all, and I will update the post shortly. But I think you slid too far from established fact and opinion.

    If you’d prefer, I (or maybe you) can delete your comment and then you can post a modified comment.

  6. Hi Marty. I’m fine with the deletions. Maybe someone who plans to attend Meet the Assessors can ask the question:

    What are the differences between the presentation and the Examiners Report ….?

    If there’s to be no conflict of interest then I don’t see how there can be any difference. (I’ve seen no difference at the MAV Conference in similar sessions, where all the interesting questions got deflected). Which begs the question: Why do teachers pay for something that will be free? And why are Assessors and commercial organisations allowed to do this?

    1. “Why do teachers pay for something that will be free?”

      Because the schools pay to send the teachers who like the idea of a day off school to talk with other teachers. Especially if they are the only teacher of that subject in their school.

      And because external PD hours are required for VIT registrations and this seems to be as good as anything to satisfy that particular group.

      1. Hi RF.

        With regards to your first reason, I think Meet the Assessors is outside of school hours (5.00 – 7.00 pm). So it seems to me that teachers who attend are making a big sacrifice of their own free time and deserve to get more for it. (Personally, I have much better things to do with my free time than spend 2 hours of it listening to someone read the Examiners Report and deflect questions).

        I understand the idea of wanting to network with other teachers – maybe the MAV should consider enabling this in a less exploitive way. Currently the closest thing to this would be the MAV SAC evenings (which at least provides a product that is useful to some teachers). Maybe the MAV should run a Meet the Teachers session for a fraction of the price …. (A Maths Teachers trivia night ….??)

        Regarding PD hours, I suppose you have a point. But I’d argue that most schools provide sufficient PD opportunities (via guest speakers, meetings etc) to more than satisfy the Vampires. Maybe the MAV should consider running a Meet the Vampire session, where teachers can ask questions and find out exactly what constitutes acceptable PD …. Most teachers don’t know, for example, that vetting a colleagues assessment (test, SAC etc.) constitutes acceptable PD as long as the hours are kept in a diary. (This issue is a whole different gravy train ….).

        My main point is that Assessors and the commercial organisations that employ them are using their association with VCAA to exploit teachers for commercial gain – the product they’re selling is significantly misrepresented.

          1. I attended that one. The presenters’ inability to acknowledge or otherwise adequately respond to reasonable criticism of questions, marking, and lack of transparency, was (as usual) very awkward and concerning. At least I got to head out for a nice lunch and got to the pub earlier than I normally do on a Friday.

            1. Very interesting! Can you elaborate? Did they not acknowledge the criticism in the sense that they ignored the speaker? Or did they not acknowledge (at minimum) the validity of the issues raised? Or was it the “This is not the place for that discussion” thing? Can you briefly (or not so briefly) indicate what criticisms were voiced?

              I’ve been to two of those Meet the Assessors talks. Each time, I made the conscious decision to not say a word (though many words came to mind). In both, the audience was pretty passive, although there was a small kerfuffle in one.

              In some sense I’m inclined to sympathise with the presenters at those meetings: the meetings are seemingly designed for the narrow but important purpose of guiding to teachers on what is expected on the exams. In that sense, it really isn’t the place for a general discussion or, arguably, a critique of specific exam questions.

              The trouble is that: 1) the assessors (that I have watched) are so sanctimonious about students not paying sufficient attention to VCAA’s anal-retentive grading, and seemingly so much in denial of the awfulness and bare comprehensibility of some exam questions. Company men will naturally and fairly be attacked for the failings of the company. 2) When IS the time to talk properly about the systemic awfulnesses of VCE maths? Perhaps if David Leigh-Lancaster talked to someone other than the hand-picked lackeys on his review committees, the assessors/presenters would get a break and some honest and desperately needed discussion would result.

              1. The presenters were not sanctimonious, nor did they blame students. If anything, I think they displayed some sympathy for the pressure students are under in an exam.

                Rather, the issue was that their conflict of interest seemed to prevent them from honestly responding to the criticisms / questions raised. For instance, the stupidity of Q10, Exam 1 was pointed out, and the presenter seemed to want to agree, but just described the question as “an interesting choice”. Another instance, on Q2a, Exam 2 (“show that this quadratic has these two complex roots”): the presenter could not provide clear guidelines on what amount of detail a student needed to provide in their response to be awarded the single mark available. (Although, this was probably the one case where I felt the presenter was too defensive about the question and its marking).

                The presenter of the Methods Exam 1 solutions did make an important point: teachers love to complain about the exam, but when VCAA formally invites feedback at the end of the year, very very few teachers submit their complaints. (Of course, one wonders how seriously those submissions would be taken…)

                1. Thanks, SRK. Quick reply.

                  1) I’m glad if they dropped the sanctimony. Sympathy for the students, however, is not the same as acknowledging that VCAA makes it so much worse than it has to be.

                  2) Re Q2(a) Exam 2, the whole debate is fucking insane, and an inevitable consequence of the microscopic method of assigning marks. No one, least of all students trying to learn some mathematics, should have to worry about such fucking nonsense.

                  3) The presenter of Methods Exam 1 can take their point and shove it. Whether or not teachers have the knowledge or the mathematical sense to properly critique VCE exams, there is no evidence that anybody at the VCAA gives a flying fuck about any submissions to them, and there is evidence to the contrary.

                  1. Re: Marty comment 3). I can personally provide the “evidence to the contrary” and vouch for VCAA not giving a flying Philadelphian about submissions from teachers:

                    For the 2016 Maths Methods Exam 2 I gave a detailed submission (using the on-line feedback process) that included the error in Q3(h) (the bogus pdf). I got no response. I followed up down the track and was told that no-one had pointed out any errors to VCAA. So much for submitting complaints!!! For the last 12 months I have been stone-walled in getting an answer as to why this error was never mentioned in the VCAA Examiners Report.

                    There is over-whelming evidence that VCAA don’t give a rat’s, unless it gets exposed in the media (like what has happened with the History Exam, English Exam etc). Then the mealy-mouthed excuses begin.

                    Re: SRK comment – “the issue was that their conflict of interest seemed to prevent them from honestly responding to the criticisms / questions raised”

                    The MAV has been made well aware of this conflict of interest. But apparently the profitability ahem popularity of Meet the Assessor means that such issues are ignored. My opinions on this are well documented. The conflict of interest goes well beyond what happens in Meet the Assessor.

                    1. JF, please be careful about extrapolating from what you know, and then stating it as fact. I know there was the pretence that no one had raised the issue of that PDF with the VCAA, which is nonsense. But, how they are internally maintaining that pretence is unclear.

            2. So we would have been in the same room(s) for most of the day. Interesting… I did wonder what we were actually getting for the price (apart from lunch and two coffee vouchers)

              1. Surely you also got:

                “…. a full analysis of the 2019 examinations highlighting student responses and key misunderstandings, commenting on some of the questions in relation to these …. time for questions and discussion … [and] provided with a copy of fully worked MAV solutions to the VCAA exams for the relevant study sessions.”

                And I hope that the “highlighting ….. key misunderstandings” included those of the VCAA exam writers (Specialist Exam 2 Section A Q10, for example) (although it doesn’t sound like it from what SRK said).

                And on top of all this, for the price you also got external hours of PD to satisfy the Vampires, and a day off school to talk with other teachers.

                Cheap at half the price!

                By the way, I never saw this product advertised …. Where was it held and was it a Meet the Assessors plus Get a SAC?

                And another genuine question: Were the presenters working from a (VCAA) script (possibly an early draft of the Examiners Report) from which it would appear they could not deviate?

                1. Not much. I agree with all the above (what was both said and not said). My feeling from the room was that people were in attendance in the belief that it would, after some reflection, help them to help their students. Maybe it will, but I don’t feel I got much from the presenters themselves. The types of questions asked or not asked is always interesting and I made some mental notes and went to speak to one person afterwards about the MAV “solutions”.

                  The SAC workshops were more interesting and here I got the distinct impression that a lot of teachers (even those with many years of experience) are still not 100% sure what VCAA is wanting and thus are a bit concerned about possible audits.

                  I wouldn’t go to one of these if it was in my own time. On the company’s time and money though… it was nice to talk to people I haven’t seen in a while.

                  1. Re: VCAA SAC audits. I doubt if even the presenters could provide 100% surity, unless they’re one of the sanctimonious auditors. In which case you’re not going to like what you hear.

                    The problem starts and ends with the whole SAC concept in its current form. And in between there is the issue of the credentials of the auditors (credentials which are dubious at best, in my opinion).

                    Here are some facts to be guided by if you’re being audited:

                    1) If you do not have plenty of generalisations in your SAC, you will fail the audit.

                    2) If you provide students with a QandA book with writing lines (like a VCAA exam QandA book) you will get rapped over the knuckles.

                    3) If you hand out the SAC in parts and decide to make one of the parts tech-free part, you will fail (apparently there’s some fine print on p10234 about this).

                    4) If you do not have exactly the correct ratio of different Outcomes, you will fail the audit.

                    5) VCAA want copies of SAC 1 months before the deadline for running the SAC 1. (The correct response to this is to tell them to get stuffed).

                    6) If you have bought your SAC from a commercial organisation, you will fail the audit.

                    I could go on (I’ve been through five audits in 12 years, as well as assisting colleagues from other schools in their audits).

                    Interesting observation 1: VCAA-friendly schools seem to get a smooth ride with their SAC audit. eg. Pilot schools of Mathematica appear to get a Hall Pass with their Maths Methods SAC audit (to the extent that people higher up in the food-chain step in, take over the audit and give it a pass), despite several of the shortcomings listed above.

                    Interesting observation 2: If you say that you’ve based your SAC on the same format as a sanctimonious someone (who may or may not have written SACs for a particular commercial organisation) because they’re so wise and all-knowing, then the auditor (who may or may not be that same sanctimonious someone) gives it a pass.

                    A whole new blog is needed to truly do this off-topic topic justice. I will say in conclusion that the whole SAC concept is FUBAR, that VCAA live in the Magic Faraway Tree, and in my view the audit process borders on being co*%u%t.

                    The SAC system replaced the previous CAT system and was meant to reduce the stress and workload on both teachers and students under that system. It doesn’t. It was also meant to deal with authentication issues. Not sure it completely does that, either.

                    A lot of commercial organisations have their snouts in the SAC trough.

                    1. I’m surprised about the tech-free component part…

                      I’ve seen a lot of SACs from a number of schools recently. Some that passed and some that didn’t. The ones that did certainly had at least one open-ended question, but not always much more.

                      No comment at all on the CBE pilots etc, except to say there is evidence to suggest the conclusion was pre-determined.

        1. Marty, I’ pretty sure your blogs would count as PD, particularly your updates on things like asymptotes etc. Make sure you keep a diary of all the hours you spend on this!

  7. A couple of remarks to the 13/02/2020 update discussion Specialist Maths Exam 1:

    Q5: It was a stupid question to start with. The only Specialist content is in part (b). Surely a graph could have been given from the get-go and the reciprocal graph asked for …. The writer of this question should be sacked from the exam setting panel. Those part (a) marks would have been much better allocated elsewhere.

    Q6: I agree that determinants is the best approach. But determinants are no longer on the VCE course (and 3×3 determinants were never on the VCE course). However, it gave a nice advantage to students who did Uni Maths …. I agree that the stated definition is wrong (inasmuch as it is incomplete) – but in fairness to the writer the definition is in the context of the given vectors (I think), in which case it’s not so wrong in my view.

    Q7: In fairness to the writer, the definition is valid within the context of the question. But I agree it’s something that warranted further explanation or comment.

    Q9: Yes, the sloppiness in this solution really, really irks me. I know a few teachers who were confused by this question, and the solutions simply perpetuate the confusion (in my opinion). It’s a very poor solution, in my opinion. I would go so far as to opine that the writer of this solution doesn’t actually understand the question.

    Q10: This is the one question I’d have loved to see the VCAA marking scheme for …. I’ll bet there’s a huge wad of working needed to move from the 4th mark to the final answer mark. A totally stupid question because of the unnecessary tedious and lengthy algebra. The writer of this question should be sacked from the exam setting panel. Sheer stupidity. The same thing could have been tested using 3 marks, and the remaining 2 marks better deployed elsewhere.

    1. Hi, JF. Quick responses:

      Q5. Yes the main problem is the poor question. But I’ll confess, I never know when Methods/Specialists expects some sort of test to determine that the turning point truly ruly is a turning point.

      Q6. Re the definition being ok “in context”, I’m sorry, but that is a non sequitur. The. Given. Definition. Is. Wrong. And, under no circumstances should the provider of solutions, much less an Assessor, frame a question with an incorrect definition. I might give it a pass as a (usually sufficient) method. And, yes, I understand that the topic is screwed, and that the majority of teachers (and seemingly the assessors) don’t understand the topic. But for Christ’s sake, this is Year 12 Specialist. The solutions are reinforcing nonsense.

      Q6. (again) It doesn’t matter if determinants are not on the course. The 3 x 3 determinant is a legitimate method and the best method for that question. Specialist teachers should teach it, in the same way that any decent Methods teacher will teach integration by substitution.

      Q7. No. Again, you cannot talk about a definition (formula) being “valid in context”, unless that context is made absolutely clear. The unqualified identification of Arg with arctan is just wrong. Perhaps in the writers’/assessors’ mind there was the required qualification, and the assumption that the diagram is being used to determine the quadrant, but they must, must, must write it. And this screw up is in a practical sense much worse than the similar screw up in Q6. Plenty of students (and more than a few teachers) get thoroughly confused by treating the unit circle and complex angles in too formulaic a manner, when they should be using the intuitive geometry as much as possible. It is the same ridiculous glorification of formula that makes the solutions to parts c and d so bad, and almost unreadable.

      Q9. For a change, I’ll defend the assessor/writer. (Everyone, go buy a lottery ticket.) I think they understood the solution, but just wrote it up inaccurately, and poorly.

      Q10. Agreed.

      1. JF & Marty: mechanics is a weakness of mine, so I’d appreciate it if you could say more about what you find inaccurate / infelicitous about the MAV solution to Q9, Exam 1. I understand the point made above that it’s nonsense to talk about “the tension on both sides of the ring”, but other than that I’m a bit vague about the issue. The way I did the question was pretty much the same way it’s presented in the solutions: resolve the forces on the ring into perpendicular components and go from there.

        1. SRK, there’s nothing seriously wrong with the MAV’s solution to Q9, just their clumsy wording. (Both sides of the mass?) The bigger issue is with the mechanics questions on Exam 2, where the writers don’t give (and perhaps don’t know) the trick (?) of consider the forces on the whole system, to determine the acceleration.

          I don’t think this exam question is worth discussing. However, if there’s another exam question or textbook question, where the solution seems unclear, let me know in a comment or email. I’d be happy to post on it, even if it’s not a WitCH.

        2. SRK, you’ve used the magic word that is missing in the MAV solutions: “resolve the forces on the ring …”

          The solutions never make this explicit. In fact, they tacitly imply that it is equilibrium of the mass that should be considered (eg their diagram in part (a), their statement “tension T is the same on both sides of the hanging mass, m.” in part (b), their diagram in part (b)). This is totally misleading for teachers (particularly inexperienced teachers) at best.

          It is the equilibrium of the ring that gives the required equations. This is what should have been emphasised.

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