Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The one question

Another GP year has come to a close. Today's final exam was, if not easy, then at least straightforward. Most essay questions looked do-able, and no nasty surprises. There was a head-scratcher over dying rich = dying 'disgraced', and a particular angle demanded by the tech question (tech has a negative effect on skill levels) which I hope the kids paid attention to. They do love the sci-tech subject so much, sometimes they forget to read the whole question. *shudder

But the compre paper totally vindicated what I had said about the application question all along. There is only ONE question to answer, no matter how many question marks appear. The main question is the one that asks if and/or how the one or two passages apply to the [new] given context from which perspective the candidate is required to consider. In other words, when we ask which author you agree with, or is more relevant, or otherwise presents a more convincing argument, these are just supporting questions that remind the candidate to make appropriate and relevant references to the passages in answer to the main question.

Trouble is, kids tend to spend too much energy answering the supporting questions (frankly, I don't care which author you agree with OR why), they have no time or forget to answer the main question. Instant fail.

This year, the application question went straight to the heart of the matter: how does the author's views on food apply to you and your society? It didn't even bother to ask the supporting questions, knowing how well we've drilled our kids to answer them. A single question mark sharpens the focus to a single key idea. That's the application question I understood right from the time they rolled it out. It didn't need to get any more complicated than that.

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