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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976


How are you being assessed in your work?

  • by internal grading of essays and other work, along with, of course, that inevitable 40% examination requirement at vuw?
  • or by end of year/course examination?

Examinations (meaning graded assessment in either form) are at the moment a fact of university life, and yet for decades studies on the subject have showed that examination marking is a highly unreliable process.

In single essay papers on mathematical topics William in 1933 found that qualified markers gave marks ranging from 16 to 96 and 26 to 92 for the same papers. Such disgusting ranges are direct evidence that factors other than cognitive achievement are being measured.

Similarly, in a study on the marking of dentistry, examiners agreed to pass 3 and fail 12 but could not agree on 7. It was concluded that in such cases the decision of passing or failing is controlled by subjective elements having no bearing on the students learning ability at all......

Kandel in 1936 concluded that handwriting ability at least was being assessed, and that examiners tended to give a greater number of extreme grades after marking a large number of scripts. Exam marks coincide also with the state of the examiner's liver, and other factors personally relevant to him.

For more detailed reading of abuses within the present system refer to Handbook article page 52 and the Assessment booklet published by NZUSA available in the Studass Office.

O.K.! But what are you going to do about it? Strip naked and dance around the examination room in order to expose the system? Wield an axe at both exam paper and desk? or maybe you'd like to take on the examiner him/herself? It is unhappily a fact, that such individual acts, though perhaps courageous - or mad - are unlikely to expose the viciousness of the system - believe me, they've been tried!