You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 47 - my latest observations on how to achieve the top criteria in those larger tasks and big mark questions like extended response exam questions, assignments and essays.
Hello VIP’s. This is a short but high level episode for you, because I recently ran a free Facebook Live Q&A session where I not only answered your questions, but also spent the first ten minutes sharing a couple of key take-aways from the huge amount of research and prep I’ve been doing for the upcoming Next Level Advanced Event which is all about how to hit the Top Criteria in Extended Responses - so that’s in high mark exam questions, like 10 marks right up to the 30 mark essay questions, and in essays, assignments, inquiry investigations, orals or speeches and reports. Now this event is only for our Next Level Members, so if your teen is a 10WGT grad and would LOVE to really know how to achieve the top marks, the top grades in those big questions and tasks, then you’ll want to get them in on the Next Level enrolment happening on the 1st to the 5th May. I’m going to host a free webinar to kick off the enrolment and that will be on the 1st May, so be sure to get on the waitlist if you want an invite to that. www.gradetransformation.com/nextlevel.
Now, I’ve decided to share the specific wording on the mark scheme of an extended, in fact essay, response Advanced English exam paper with you here as a bonus episode on the podcast.
So, this is definitely a higher level episode AND on the live session, I also had flashcards with key information, so you can go and check the replay out on the Rock Solid Study Facebook Page, to get all the visuals. It’s up there for you and my live sessions won’t be taken down from the page, so whenever you’re listening to this you’ll still be able to go watch them going forwards. I’m going to be doing them every 3rd Wednesday from now to the end of the year. Plus, I also did like a whole additional 30/35 minutes of answering the questions that parents and students posted into the chat - and there were some really good ones, so you should definitely go watch the full replay for those. So many juicy topics covered there.
So, here I am explaining exactly what the wording on the rubric or mark scheme really means and what it actually requires so that your teen can be better equipped and more knowledgable in how to achieve the top criteria in those larger tasks and big mark questions. Let’s dive in
Welcome to this Live Q&A, plus bonus tips because you know me, I can't resist sharing what you know I'm working on, what I'm thinking about, what insights I've had recently. I’m Katie Jones - I am the founder of Rock Solid Study, I'm the creator of the 10 Week Grade Transformation Programme, I have about 17 years now of experience in education. I started my teaching career in the UK and I won a national teaching award in the UK. I started working with exam boards in the UK and had my eyes opened through that particular work, to everything that is really and truly involved in succeeding in assessments and in exams for students. And so I've continued that work by teaching and getting as much experience as possible with different state exam boards, styles of papers, and getting experience in marking, as an external exam marker in coursework moderation, being a scrutiny panel member and writing panel member. So I'm actually now involved also in the writing of the questions and the marking guide as well. So, what I want to start off with, as promised, is share with you a couple of tips from the work that I've been doing recently on looking at extended response questions and tasks and the marking guide and the criteria that goes with those.
Now of course every single question and every single task has its own marking guide, its own mark scheme, its own success criteria. (Those are all the words - and there's more as well - that we hear of, for how these things get marked. So use those words interchangeably. They do get given slightly different names depending on what they are for, but they mean the same thing. It's what we mark against.) Because I've been doing a HUGE amount of research and diving in… in fact let me see if I can share with you some of these things… ready for our Next Level Event.
Next level is my advanced coaching programme that is just for students who completed the 10 Week GradeTransformation and we have a live event coming up very soon in May. So, I've been doing huge amounts of preparation because it is on coaching and training that I've never really delivered before at this level and in this amount of detail. So here - let me fan these out nicely for you - these are just some of the mark schemes and criteria an exemplar responses and model responses and marking guides and examination reports and grade descriptors.
This one is from the IB, I've got A-Level and GCSE from the UK and the Cambridge board, I've got a Chemistry high level experiment report for the QCAA, I've got HSC Advanced English papers from 2022, I've got NZQA Level 3 History examples.
There's so much that I've been going through because if you know me by now, this is not about subject specific tutoring or subject knowledge. This is about: ‘What do they need to be putting across and how do they do it - in the way that gets them maximum marks for the knowledge that they have?’ The knowledge that your teen has - how can they maximise that in terms of their marks, their grades, their results? And get the return on effort that they’ve been putting in?
Here is what I found: I've gone old-school and have some flash cards here, because I think visuals can sometimes help.
So first thing:- I'm going to be talking about these two levels up here. Not the highest - we've got ‘Create’ - I'm not going to talk about that one today. But I'm going to talk about ‘Analyse’ and ‘Evaluate’ because these are the two highest levels that we see most often. We actually don't get an awful lot of create at all, but I would say I have never seen an essay that is not at either analyse or evaluate level. And in terms of extended responses, assignments, assessments they are almost all around this level of response. If you've not seen these before, if you've not heard me talk about command words and cognitions and levels of cognition and levels of response, then definitely make sure you sign up for a future webinar with me. I will have a couple more throughout this year and I almost always cover some element of this. It is so so critical that everybody especially every student, but for parents as well, it's so helpful to be aware of this. So I'm gonna be talking about evaluate and analyse, those high levels and we're starting off these monthly sessions on the third Wednesday of each month. Going to go high level today, so stay with me here. These are literally taken from the HSC 2022 advanced English paper. These are the descriptors that are given. I thought this would be helpful to show you because it literally says in the descriptions of what they need to be doing. Maybe it's analysing the text, or whatever it might be… in terms of the general descriptors it says at the top levels, (it actually goes down another level as well but I'm not going to the right bottom ones), I'm gonna show you the top three: Appropriate, effective and skillful. Those are their words. Then, in brackets what we might have used to have called this back in the day. It would be satisfactory, good and excellent.
But here's the problem: What do they really mean? What are some of the challenges that your teen finds? Or, if you're a student here, tell me what are some challenges that you find you have with extended response assessments? Whether it's an extended response question exam - I'm talking anything really 10 marks upwards as a question, or in essays, in assignments, in research reports, in inquiry tasks. What are some of the issues that you have when trying to get those done and figure out what they really want? Because here's what I hear from parents, and to some extent, from teachers as well, is that they're being given - you know, it's almost like the answer sheet - being told what we need to do. It's like “OK, if you do this you're gonna get this grade. Do this and you're gonna get this percentage.”
So, why can't you just do it? Even though we've got the mark scheme, or the rubric, what is the challenge that you sometimes face, or see, or come across?
Here's what I see as a challenge and I see this even as the teacher. It's that that wording can be pretty vague. What is the difference between skillful and effective? What is the difference between appropriate and effective? And that's why one of the things that I'm going to share with you, and that I'm going into so much detail on at the Next Level Event. So if you have a teen in Next Level Coaching you're going to get all of this. And heads up for anyone who is looking forward to the next open enrolment, if you teen has been through the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program and had huge success with it, I will keep you up to date on the emails.
Today, I want to share with you exactly what it says inside of the marking criteria for this extended response question. This is for advanced English is from a 2022 paper. The exact wording says… see if this really helps - maybe, maybe not:
Sustained what makes it skillful is it has to be sustained.
It has to be discerning in the selection of evidence that the student uses in their response
and it has (now this is the wording I use) - I talked about language and wording - and I love to use the the phrase quality of written communication.
Next, I want to tell you a little bit more about these. Because I don't know about you, but we've had like 3 levels now. It’s trying to tell us what they want, but what does that really mean? What does sustain really mean? We could take a guess, but it's not necessarily always clear from the outset. What does discerning really mean? And what do we want to see in high quality written communication?
First thing for ‘sustained’ is that it needs to be the right length. Now this sounds really obvious, but if they're writing an analytical essay and it does not have an introduction and conclusion and either three or four body paragraphs, that is not going to count as sustained. If they've only got two body paragraphs, or they don't finish the conclusion, it is not going to count as sustained. If they’ve only got a two sentence introduction or conclusion, unless it's a really speedy one, it's like a mini essay, it's not going to count as sustained. So, they need to know exactly what is expected in their response in terms of the quantity, but obviously not foregoing the quality, which I'm also going to talk about.
Now, sustained is not just the length. That would be too obvious, right?! It also means to make sure that everything in their essay matches their thesis statement. Nothing is going off track, nothing starting to argue a slightly different point. It's all supporting their thesis.
So it's really important they have a strong thesis statement to start off with and that requires them being able to dissect the question in order to craft a thesis that directly answers the question. The other thing is that it means no tangents. We can't start going off on another path, we can't start talking about something that isn't related to the question.
No tangents. That also means it is sustained.
The next thing is the discerning selection of evidence. Here's what it needs to be. It says it needs to be ‘detailed and well chosen’. What does that mean? It means that they need to have a balance of evidence from across the text. A balance of evidence from across the text. So something from the start, something from the middle, something from the end. They can't have all of that evidence from the opening part. We can't have all of it from the closing part. It needs to be across and show a range of knowledge from across the text, and that align clearly with different points. Like for example if it's an evaluation, if it's an evaluation level piece and they need to make a judgement (evaluate always means that need to make a judgement). Terefore it means they need to have balanced evidence from both sides of the argument. Now, they may have more on the side that they are arguing for, but they need to show that they've got knowledge of both sides in order to make that judgement.
And then finally quality of written communication. I'm going to give you two really basic ones here that are really important in English: Spelling, punctuation and grammar, and word choice: vocabulary are they using. Using subject-specific vocabulary. And that can definitely go into their more technical subjects as well. Are they also using well-chosen vocabulary and language within their writing? And is it well-matched to what the point is that they're trying to make?
So those are some examples of what is truly required. I'm hoping that this is making it a lot clearer for you. What is truly required for these highest level criteria in some of those tasks that require the highest levels of response.
I hope that makes sense so that's a few bonus tips. Like I said, these are for a high level for high performing students. I’m opening up with something really high level today and that possibly isn't maybe the best strategy, maybe I should start off with the basic things and work our way up each month, but this isn't a program itself. This is just me sharing what I'm seeing, what I’m working on, what insights I have to share with you in this moment.
Now, if your teen has completed the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program and would benefit from the full in-depth advanced training I’m delivering on this, covering all different subjects, in any year level from Y9 - 12 or 10 to 13, you’ll want to get them into Next Level Coaching in our open enrolment happening on the 1st - 5th May. The Live Event is on Sunday 7th May - and yes all members get access to the full recording if they can’t make it or, of course, just want to recap anything.
And if you’d love to catch this full replay of with all the visuals AND get all my answers to the brilliant questions that I answered live too, then go to www.facebook.com/rocksolidstudy to watch it there.
Have a brilliant day and I’ll see you back here for our regular episode when it drops on Tuesday.