Rugger   Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 07:35 GMT
A.S.C.M, what I hated most about my VCE english exams was all the memorising. Part of the VCE english exam includes writting essays on the novels/plays covered in class. I had to memorise twenty quotes/references from Euripides' "Medea", about ten quotes/references from Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence", and about fifteen quotes/references from Shakespear's "Hamlet", to ensure that each essay that I wrote in the exam would have some key text material to support what I had written.
The worst part is that English is the one compulsory subject that all students must do and therefore its marks are a fixed contributor to your final VCE result (the ENTER score). So if you do poorly on your English exams, then your ENTER score, which determines which courses you do at University, is significantly lowered. There is also the ESL english exams sat by those students doing ESL english, which is scaled up. That's another thing about VCE, some subjects are scaled up and others are scaled down. Generally, all languages and maths subjects are scaled up very high because they are considered "hard" subjects. On the other hand other subjects (mainly humanities subjects), eg. "architecture", "textiles", "psychology" or "accounting" are scaled down. So students wanting to get the top VCE score (i.e. top ENTER score) of 99.95, tend to take on these "hard" subjects which are significantly boosted up.
Jim   Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 07:45 GMT
I agree that all that memorising is of little use. It distorts the results. However, I don't believe that that's how scaling works (or fails to work as the case may be). If an average student does a "hard" subject (s)he's more likely to do poorly and so deserves to be scaled up just as if (s)he'd taken a bludge subject (s)he'd deserve to be scaled down. I don't think that there is someone who descides how hard a certain subject is but instead they figure it all out by comparing actual data.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 23:11 GMT
From what I've read in Rugger's last post, it seems to me that testing for admission to universities in Australia is more competitive than testing in the US and the UK. In the US, around 45% of the population goes to university and most of the rest go to community colleges so if you get a passing grade, you're set for tertiary education. In the UK, GCSEs and A-levels are given a letter grade (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and there's no "percentage mark". However, Australian universities actually look at the VCE ENTER percentage mark to the hundredths place, which means that the top score is 99.95 and not an "A" (which around 20% of A-level students in the UK receive)! How alarming.
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Rugger   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 00:22 GMT
A.S.C.M, here is a site explaining the ENTER (Equivalent National Tertiary Entry Rank) score:

Interpretation of ENTER scores:

students in the top 1% of the state = an ENTER of 99 or above.
students in the top 5% of the state = an ENTER of 95 or above.
students in the top 10% of the state = an ENTER of 90 or above.
students in the top 20% of the state = an ENTER of 80 or above.

The ENTER score is an overall ranking on a scale of 0-100 that you receive, based on your Study Scores.

A study score is a score from zero to 50 which shows how you performed in a study (eg. chemistry, biology, physics, english, etc.), relative to all other students doing that same study. It is based on your results in school assessments and examinations.

The ENTER is used by universities and TAFE institutes to select students for their courses. As an example, here are the enterance requirements for the physiotherapy course at Melbourne University:
Jim   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 03:02 GMT
Just to clear things up.

The VCE is only a Victorian thing, not Australia-wide. Victoria is one of the six Australian states. Each state takes care of it's own education system.

There is no VCE in New South Wales (another of the six Australian states). We've got the HSC instead. The HSC and VCE are pretty much the same deal, as it is with the other states. When I did the HSC it was just called TER not ENTER (the letters "TER" in each stand for the same thing), it may have changed or it may be a state to state thing.

The university admission system in New South Wales (another of the six Australian states) and the Australian Capital Territory are combined. I believe the Northern Territory has it's own system. I'm not exactly sure what the go is with the other territories except that in The Australian Antartic Territory there is no need.
A.S.C.M.   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 03:08 GMT
To British Maria and other Britons on Antimoon:

Don't you find it odd that England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland cannot agree on a single curriculum and exam system? The KS1-4 National Curriculum only applies to English and Welsh pupils and judging from what I've read on BBC News, I believe that Wales has a Baccalaureate system instead of the English GCSEs and A-levels.

And why on earth does England need three competing, independent examining bodies- Edexcel, OCR, and AQA?
A.S.C.M.   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 06:09 GMT
How, odd, Jim. Just as you were typing up your last post, I was browsing through some sample NSW HSC specimen papers to get an idea of exams in Australia.
British Maria   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 17:36 GMT
I was just thinking of that today A.S.C.M...But generally I think England, Wales and Northern Ireland follow GCSEs and A-levels while the Scottish go for Standard Grade and Highers. I think in Scotland grades are given numbers, so a 1 would be the equivalent of an A*.
I find some exam boards better than others. The worse by far is Edexcel, because they always much up exam papers. They completely balls up our RE GCSE papers last year. Most of the exams in our school are done by AQA. A few years ago though they had around 20 bodies, NEAB, EAB, Midlands..all sorts! Luckily though AQA and OCR give speciman and past papers on their sites :-)
A.S.C.M.   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 23:40 GMT
Hello, British Maria,

Marks on AP exams in the United States are also given in numbers, except that 5 is the highest and either 0 or 1 (I forgot which) is the lowest. American AP and SAT exams are administered by the College Entrance Examination Board.

Overall, the US educational system is much less structured and more flexible than the UK system. Students are not forced to take SAT II or AP exams and their exam marks are just one of many factors that influence the quality of their university application. As for coursework, California does have "Content Standards" that are similar to the English/Welsh National Curriculum but they only serve as guidelines to teachers. The same applies to AP course specifications, which only provide brief outlines and sample exam questions to guide teachers. In addition, there are no textbooks specifically designed for AP courses so we either end up cramming whole university-level textbooks into our heads or reading portions of the textbook and hoping that the info we skipped over does not show up on the standardised AP exam. This flexibility, though perhaps "democratic" in the American spirit, often results in nasty surprises on standardised exams.
A.S.C.M.   Friday, October 24, 2003, 00:53 GMT
I find this line on a specimen A-level question paper especially interesting: "Edexcel Foundation is a Registered charity." Weighing pupils down with exams is very charitable indeed.
British Maria   Friday, October 24, 2003, 22:24 GMT
Hello, A.S.C.M!

Aye, they'll have something like 'Edexcel registered charity number 1120288!' lol...They must make a fortune out of marking papers though, because the Government pays around £15 for every it's a hell of a lot in the long run! It's strange because we have SATs here too (standard assessment tests). My sister will be doing them in May and their results are in levels. A level 5 or 6 is average for a year 9, like a grade D or E at GCSE.
It seems wrong though that the schools don't provide you with any specific textbooks for the specific course...I often curse the day when I lug around what seems half of library of books round with me between lessons..but then it's better than none! They gave us this 700 page geography book which must have weighed a stone! What courses are you doing A.S.C.M? I'm doing biology, chemistry, maths and geography..but they give us a lesson of RE a week to keep us on our toes! :-)
They gave us our our exam timetable for January and they've given us 2 on the same day the scoundrels! Toodle-pip!
A.S.C.M.   Saturday, October 25, 2003, 06:56 GMT
Hello, British Maria,

Mid semester exams are finally over so I can devote some time to this entry. I certainly know about standard assessment tests. After all, I've taken those in primary school (in the UK, if you haven't forgotten). In the US, we take extremely easy standardised multiple-choice assessment tests every year.

When I write that there's no specific material for AP courses, I don't mean that we have no textbooks. We certainly do have textbooks: I have to lug a 1300-page Biology book, a 1050-page US History book, and a 800-page Calculus book to school. Plus, I think that we have to memorise every single detail within them before the end of April in order to be ready for the AP exams. What I actually meant by "there are no textbooks specifically designed for AP courses" is that all our textbooks were written for university students and hence include plenty of details that we don't need to know. However, the College Entrance Exam Board doesn't tell us what we need and what we don't need to learn so we end up cramming all the info into our brains even if we don't fully understand some key concepts.

I'm currently taking AP Biology, AP U.S. History, AP French, AP Calculus, Physics (Honours-level), and American Literature (regular-level). The result? I sleep at around 1.30 AM Monday-Thursday and playing piano and posting on Antimoon are my two remaining "recreational activities". I need to start doing some extracurricular activities to make my university application more colourful though.