Imagine sitting in the hall, feeling positively insignificant amongst the rows of desks and chairs. All around, the tireless scratching of pen nibs on fresh paper and furious flipping of pages bring to mind the characteristically dreaded atmosphere of examination. The bated breath, the pounding heartbeat, the frigid winds from air conditioning; none of them helps to fill a blank mind. The chief examiner casually strolls onto stage towards the microphone. “You have 5 minutes left,” comes the final warrant before death, as the cacophony of sounds described above amplify by a million times. Damn.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? For the J1s, the most recent memory was probably your O levels. For the J2s, it was the CT1s. Were you one who dreaded receiving your CT1 papers back? Or perhaps you were the one frantically adding your marks up to that much-coveted A, or the one who simply gave in, resignated to yet another S or U. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Remember when getting below 90 for a Maths exam caused all hell to break loose, and when you could study for a Chemistry paper the night before and still get a decent grade? Neither can we.
CT1 has often been termed the ‘wake-up call’ for J2s as batches of students have come and gone. The crucial A-level year can compel students to crowd the library with sheets of notes adorned with complex diagrams and annotations right up to the days before CT1. For most of the cohort, CT1 was hastily prepared for, as after the business of JCO came CCA trials, planning for March camps and preparation for the competition/concert season. To ramp up the stress, teachers also gave ominous warnings of the level of difficulty the papers were pitched at.
Journalists from The Victorian Press have compiled a list of exam-related rumours and advice from students to find out how much damage was inflicted.
Views from the Arts faculty:
Immediately after the papers, we could hear snippets of conversation bursting out as the students filed out of the exam venus – disastrous accounts of writing two lines for a Literature essay, writing only 3 essays for a H2 History paper, or choosing only 1 out of 3 possible essays for the Economics exam. These were the consequences of the lack of time management – and the price to pay was high, as submitting fewer than the required number of full length essays meant sacrificing any grade above a C(or D?) (Editor’s note: Or my U?) instantly.
Other than that, problems with content mastery also surfaced, leaving distressed students wondering if they had just extinguished their dream of an A. For example, many students had trouble identifying that part c) in the case study question for Economics was regarding the Russian rouble, which is their national currency. Many thus ended up drawing the AD/AS diagram rather than the forex diagram and this caused the average mark for CSQ to plunge to a dismal 16/30. Question 11 on vectors in the Math paper also left many students stumped, losing more than 10 marks instantly. To soothe oneself during the paper, one common practice was to spend the rest of the time we had left in a Maths exam calculating the marks accumulated we’d to pass, then averaging the theoretical score after factoring in marks lost for carelessness and method marks gained. Additionally, the response to the AQ in GP was said to be ‘focusing on the wrong ideas’, while the lack of clear paraphrasing in the summary cause marks to be lost quickly.
Little wonder, then, that attaining that D or E was a cause for celebration in and of itself. Most students witnessed a drop in their grades, even for subjects they had typically performed well in (Editor’s note: editing this is surfacing too many painful memories. I’m out.) After the results were released, we also heard of many high-achievers picking up the form to drop their H3 subjects to escape another bloodbath in CT2. Zooming in on specific subjects, we heard that the Math paper practically caused one entire class of H2 students to fail. However, the Arts Fac performed surprisingly well for the Economics paper, despite the low confidence many had in their results.
View from the Science faculty:
For most in the science faculty, the opening day or CTs seemed to give many a headache, especially for those taking GP and economics papers in the same day, although this was merely to serve as an appetizer for what lay ahead. The chemistry paper the following day was nauseating, with 2 hours and 45 minutes of collateral damage for those taking the H2 subject. The killer section was the second paper, where many students immediately slackened off and found it difficult to complete 30 MCQs in 45 minutes. Despite VJC having a rather stellar record in chemistry at the A levels, this CTs was clearly unrepresentative (hopefully), with the cohort posting a mere 60% pass rate. Even then, a certain chemistry teacher even said that this year’s chemistry paper was already comparatively easier to last year’s, due to the larger proportion of recall questions present.
And yet, to quote an anonymous figure, ‘if the chemistry paper was cancerous, then the physics paper was downright slaughter’. Indeed, many who sat for the physics paper remarked on the unusually large emphasis on application related questions. Many were unable to see the link between concepts learnt during lectures and the contexts provided during the examination. The biology paper was also unnaturally difficult, and there was even a need for blanket moderation across the whole cohort.
While the prospects did seem gloomy, the poor results for many could be attributed to the fact that the examinations were at the end of a term, when many were tired from school activities and desperately in need of a period of recovery and recuperation. ‘For me, there simply wasn’t sufficient time to revise and consolidate my learning at the end of the term, unlike last year where there were at least school holidays immediately before the mid year and promotional exams,” a fellow student said.
Indeed, a general fall in standards across the board is usually expected during CT1s. The purpose of the common test early in the year is to serve as a wake-up call to those who are still yet to start their engines, and to bring back to earth those complacent over good results obtained during last year’s promotional examinations. Still, there were some students pleased with their results; ‘My economics grade improved from a D to a B. Although I fell short of an A, I’m still satisfied with my progress,’ a beaming student told the Victorian Press.
So what next? The J2s will be taking the next horrifying exam, the CT2s, in late July. How did you feel about your CT1 results? Do share in the comments below!
Benjamin Chew 15S44
Fiona Lee 15A11