Ensuring good examination practice – read the manual

Over the years I have written a large number of examiners reports. What is slightly depressing, but also inevitable, is that over that time they became quite repetitive. Put simply, every year students throw away unnecessary marks by not understanding the nature of the assessment, the examination rubric or directions for maximising performance. Unfortunately, the information supporting assessment is not centralised in one document; although the programme guide is a pretty important starting point and contains the minimum knowledge required. My recent post on supporting student assessment identified some of the key issues about internal assessment and the extended essay.

The manual for assessment success in Business and Management does not reside in one place. The following documents provide the recipe for maximising student performance:

  • The Business and Management guide
  • The Teacher Support Materials  (TSM)
  • The Extended Essay guide
  • Further clarifications to the Business and Management guide (March 2007)
  • Subject session reports

All of these documents are to be found on the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC). If you do not have a password to the OCC, it is vital you get one as soon as you can from the IB co-ordinator, as any advice given to students without the information contained here is likely to be inadequate and probably inaccurate.

Beware: much of the information on the OCC must be revealed by clicking on the ‘+’ sign next to the section heading, which reveals a dropdown menu; the subject reports being a good example.

OCC

Subject session reports

Every examination session the principal examiners and moderators for that session write a report on the performance of candidates. Each of the assessment components has its own report. The internal assessment and extended essay reports tend to be similar, or even identical, from session to session reflecting the same key issues to be addressed. The examination reports for HL and SL will be distinctly different, even though the themes are likely to be related. The IB co-ordinator should really remind subject teachers every session to read the examination report thoroughly and to identify key actions for the coming academic year that are highlighted by the report. Although this seems obvious, I am afraid it simply does not happen in many schools. Indeed some teachers make fundamental mistakes in assessing internal components and in giving advice on external assessment, as is shown by support documentation and comments made on assessments and essays.

One very useful piece of training for teachers in any Business and Management department is to summarise the key findings and recommendations over a number of years in the form of a mind map or list. The key issues can be displayed in the classroom.

The following is a summary of some of the issues identified in the May 2013 session report:

(you should read the whole report for all of the recommendations)

Recommendations and guidance for the teaching of future candidates

HLIA:

Teachers should ensure that candidates:

  • Have access to the assessment criteria before starting their project.
  • Know the word counts for all sections of their reports, check that their projects are within the word limit and are clear regarding the penalties for exceeding this limit.
  • Have a clear and focused research question, so as to make the project realistically achievable and forward-looking with a title that is not too broad in scope or overambitious.
  • Include a business rationale rather than a personal rationale for the investigation.

SLIA:

  • Candidates should be encouraged to use theory, tools and techniques explicitly in the commentary and to apply them appropriately to the business issue/problem chosen.
  • Candidates should be provided with precise guidance and support for referencing, also ensuring that the supporting documents are referenced throughout the commentary.
  • Candidates should use only 3 to 5 supporting documents as stipulated in the subject guide.
  • Any documents or material that is used that is not in the language of submission should be translated.
    Candidates should ensure that documents are less than two years old.

Paper One:

Examination techniques:

  • Read the questions carefully. Identify command terms such as: describe, analyse, examine, discuss and evaluate. These words have different meanings; expectations consequently vary and marks are allocated accordingly.
  • Plan the answers, especially for responses achieving four or more marks. Use paragraphs and present the responses clearly. For example, if the question asks for three features, write three separate sentences/paragraphs.
  • Use the subject terminology, concepts and theories when appropriate.
  • Be more analytical and refer to the case study. Evaluate when appropriate, rather than just describe.

Paper Two:

When asked to discuss/evaluate/recommend etc. candidates should reach substantiated conclusions/recommendations judgment. To do this, candidates must:

  • Refer to and make use of the relevant information in the stimulus material as much as possible but selectively (uncritical regeneration of the information is judged as descriptive work).
  • Use theoretical knowledge of a particular topic (or topics) to enhance the quality of the answer. The use of theoretical knowledge can provide many other arguments for and against an issue/proposal/action that is covered in the stimulus material.
  • Avoid a re-narration of the stimulus material. Even with a judgment, re-narration of the stimulus material will not enable candidates to reach the top markband.
  • Identify missing information/gaps that could support decisions/recommendations.
  • Address the weakness of an option when an evaluation is made or a conclusion is reached for the judgment to be fully substantiated. When appropriate, candidates should offer some sort of solution as to what the organization should and can do, to overcome some of the weaknesses.

Candidates who follow the above will be more likely to reach the top markbands.

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