Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mistake in this years HSC paper

Reports have now started hitting the media about a mistake in this years paper in the Pompeii and Herculaneum section. The mistake is a factual one and I am sure easily picked up by teachers who went over the paper post exam. Students should not be overly concerned though as markers will be told to take this into account when marking the paper and any continuation of the error in the student responses ignored and not penalised. This is how HSC marking happens.In reviewing the question there is more than likely no chance that the mistake actually affected any responses as the question it referred to did not require a specific answer to Pompeii or Herculaneum.

Below however is a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about the error.

Trouble erupts over HSC exam error

Heath Gilmore and Anna Patty
October 27, 2010

ANCIENT history students are the victims of a Higher School Certificate exam mistake, aptly - and literally - known as Herculaneum Gate.

In 2008 HSC examiners in their annual post-mortem upbraided students who confused the two towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Advertisement: Story continues below Two years later the examiners are accused of making the same error in a compulsory question posed to 12,269 students.

In last Friday's exam, students were asked about inscriptions from a cemetery excavated at Herculaneum.

But a cemetery has never been found at the Herculaneum archaeological site.

The inscriptions come from tombs at Pompeii, near the town's Herculaneum Gate.

Kathryn Welch, a senior lecturer in the department of classics and ancient history at the University of Sydney, said the mistake would have limited answers on one aspect in particular.

It describes a public official with a career that was perfectly normal in Pompeii, but not in Herculaneum.

''This will have impeded the students' realisation that they could have talked about politics in Pompeii on which they were probably better prepared,'' Dr Welch said.

''And, sadly, the better prepared the student was on Pompeii, the more they will have hesitated to apply their information to Herculaneum.''

Brian Brennan, an ancient historian who has led school tours to both sites, said angry teachers had contacted him over the mistake.

Both Roman towns were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

''To the outsiders it may appear insignificant,'' he said. ''However, we wouldn't accept such mistakes in other papers like English or maths.

''It's a question about the credibility of the HSC paper and the board which oversees it. This mistake is basic. The teachers deserve better and they complain and complain and get rebuffed each time.''

Jennifer Lawless, the NSW Board of Studies inspector for history, said yesterday the Herculaneum reference was a factual error. But she said the incorrect location would have little impact on the students, who were asked to deal with evidence within the inscriptions.

She denied there had been errors in papers for the past three years, saying some facts presented were the subject of academic dispute known to students.

A Board of Studies spokeswoman said one complaint had been received about the ancient history paper this year. She said neither students nor teachers had made complaints about the 2009 or 2008 papers.

The spokeswoman said the mistake was unfortunate after an eight-month checking process.

''With all those processes there are sometimes errors,'' she said. ''When we find an error, the chief examiner is contacted and we evaluate how it might affect student responses.

''Markers are briefed so they are aware of it and gauge whether student responses have been affected. The bottom line is we want to make sure students aren't disadvantaged.''