a general piece on Scholarship

I’ve been asked to give a general talk to a group of visiting students about Scholarship exams – eek! Anyway, what follows is what they’ll be getting (my biology schol presentation without any biology…) The basic details come from the Scholarship section on the NZQA website.

First up, an overview: you can expect that Scholarship exams will be challenging and demanding for the most able students in each subject. The assessment schedule will allow for ranking of students, & it will also provide clear descriptions to assess candidates’ achievement over several levels of performance. Scholarships will be awarded to the best students in each of the 27 subjects examined – and the number of awards will be equal to 3% of the number of students entered for at least 14 level 3 credits in each subject (as long as they meet Scholarship standards, of course).

What sort of content wil be covered? It will be related to the Level 3 standards – up to level 8 of the curriculum material covered by year 13 students.

But the skills understanding required are much more advanced. Candidates need to show high-level critical thinking; high-level abstract thinking; and the application of their knowledge & ideas to novel, complex situations.

Assessment: each question in a paper will be marked on a scale from 0 to 8. The marks are related to the performance descriptors for each subject. Someone who gets an 8 will have written an outstanding answer in all respects. Strong evidence of integration and synthesis. As good as could be expected under examination conditions. Accurate, comprehensive, coherent, lucid, perceptive. (The italicised bits are from the QA website, but the emphasis is mine.) A marker will give ‘1’ for meagre understanding relevant to question.. (Someone would get a ‘0’ for an irrelevant answer, or no answer at all.) Each subject marking panel will review the highest-scoring papers to determine the top candidate in each subject, & they’ll also re-mark papers which lie on the cut-off between getting a Scholarship & not getting one.

So, a student receiving Scholarship in a subject will have demonstrated high-level critical thinking, abstraction & generalisation and the ability to integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding & ideas to complex situations. They’ll also show: comprehensive subject knowledge (both breadth & depth); effective communication skills; original or sophisticated solutions, performances or approaches; & flexible thinking in unfamiliar or unexpected contexts.

In other words, success requires:

  • high literacy skills;
  • comprehensive, accurate knowledge of concepts & processes;
  • depth & breadth of understanding;
  • critical thinking skills;
  • discerning analysis of both question & resource information;
  • selection of appropriate knowledge to answer the question;
  • coherent, logical & precise answers with no irrelevant or superfluous information;
  • use of appropriate terminology;
  • avoiding irrelevancies & unsupported generalisations.

And note that literacy skills were at the top of my list. You’re studying Biology here – but you’ve still got to communicate your knowledge, thoughts, understanding – & you use English to do it!

2 thoughts on “a general piece on Scholarship”

  • Carolyn Allan says:

    I thought I had seen it here – a ‘reading list’ that would be perfect to help prepare potential Biology Scholarship candidates (2010) in terms of giving material that could be used and integrated into examination answers? Perhaps not but do you have any suggestions as to ‘must read’ sources for such candidates?

  • Alison Campbell says:

    ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever presented a list like that. You could try doing a search on the site for ‘books’ as from time to time I’ve commented on various books that I’m reading. But I suspect your students wouldn’t be after big thick things to read right now. What would probably go down well would be the newsletters put out by the Allan Wilson Centre: http://www.allanwilsoncentre.ac.nz/documents/newsletters.htm – nice, short articles most related to New Zealand research in evolutionary biology (in all its flavours!). Let me know what you think, anyway.
    And all the best to your students for their NCEA & Scholarship exams 🙂

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