Test ensures students are up to the mark
On the marking method on the Use of English, Section E paper (UEE) of the HKALE, 'Drawing the lines for language success' (Education Post, May 12), the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority released a press statement on April 27 to address this issue with the following message: One of the aims of the UEE paper, Practical Skills for Work and Study, is to determine whether candidates can apply their language skills by writing precisely in situations related to work and study.
For task one in the 2007 paper, candidates were asked to write a persuasive letter to a company within a specified limit of 500 words. The task is designed to assess the ability of candidates to process information, to compare and contrast information and to use this information in dealing with a variety of communication tasks and problems. To present ideas effectively within the word limit is an integral part of the assessment design of the task.
The panel of examiners found that a minority of candidates wrote well beyond the 500-word limit for this task, although the instructions clearly state that the candidate should '...write a letter of no more than 500 words'.
There are two components in the marking scheme for this task, content and presentation. In this year's marking scheme, content marks will not be awarded for that part of a candidate's response that exceeds the 500-word limit. This means that candidates who have not followed the instructions and have exceeded the set word limit will not gain an advantage in terms of scoring content points.
By enforcing the word limit, markers are able to discriminate more accurately between more and less able candidates.
However, the presentation marks will be awarded for overall performance on the task. Even where candidates have exceeded the word limit for task one, they will still be able to score presentation marks as markers have been instructed to read to the end of the letter.
Some have enquired why the marking scheme for 2007 differs from the scheme for 2006. It should be understood that different questions are set every year and the marking schemes for the HKCE and HKAL examinations are finalised only after a series of professional discussions by the chief examiner and the assistant examiners.
They study the questions set and analyse the performance of candidates, then decide on a final marking scheme. The issue of candidates significantly exceeding the word limit was identified as a problem in the responses of 2007 candidates, and thus the marking scheme was developed to address this.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS UNIT
the Hong Kong Examinations
and Assessment Authority