Cardiff castleTogether with a group of other senior examiners, the chief examiner, the Subject Manager and various other IBDP important assessment people, I have just spent a week in sunny Cardiff, the lively capital city of Wales and home of the IBDP Assessment Centre.

It was a busy, interesting, challenging and very productive week.

GROUP 6 GRADE DESCRIPTORSPrior to arrival I wondered how the new digital upload process and the new ‘teacher interview’ process would affect things, but was pleasantly surprised to find everything very much the same as usual. It’s true that we spent a lot more time wearing earphones and looking at monitors than previously, but our job was very much the same as previous years, because of course neither the assessment descriptors nor the grade boundaries have changed.

In fact the static nature of our grade boundaries is a mystery to some. In other courses grade boundaries change with each examination session to ensure fairness from year to year. In visual arts there is no “exam,” and the assessment descriptors do not change from year to year – so we use the same grade boundaries that were set up back in 2009, at the beginning of the course.

We (the visual arts grade award team) start by looking at ‘boundary scripts’ – examples of student work that achieved specific marks – to remind ourselves of standards. Even senior examiners who are experienced teachers find this a great opening exercise.

Cardiff seagullVisual Arts is possibly the most complex subject to assess in the Diploma Programme (just my personal opinion here) – so studying, discussing and adhering to agreed assessment exemplars for different grades is a great way to start the meeting.

This year we also had a long look at the overall Group 6 Grade Descriptors; these descriptors are common to all the Arts subjects so the language is not always specific to visual arts, but as an overview they add to our understanding (posted here).

Also posted here are a couple of typical Cardiff photographs – the castle and one of the many seagulls! Stay tuned – more to follow!

  • Greg
    July 3, 2013

    Hi Andrew

    Do you ever drag in non-Visual Arts people to the grade awards? It’s amazing how many education professionals that I encounter still come out with the old ‘…but of course, marking Art is so subjective…’ line. I always find that my own IB VA students can mark each others’ studio work to within half a grade (and they are almost always on the cautious side)



  • Andrew Vaughan
    August 4, 2013

    Hi Greg,
    Yes, that “art is subjective” myth just goes on and on…

    And no, visual arts grade award is usually dominated by visual arts examiners – although to be honest very few people in the assessment area of the IBDP (ie IB Cardiff) feel subjectivity plays much of a role anywhere.

    Its (almost) all about the CRITERIA!



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