Going to College: Switch to online marking in some subjects should not throw students off
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has announced significant changes to how some Leaving Cert subjects will be marked. Most schools will have let their sixth years go at this stage, so many candidates may be unaware of these changes.
While the changes should not have a huge impact on how students will approach those exams, some candidates may be a little thrown off if they first come across them when they are sitting the actual exam.
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Over the past number of years, the SEC has been exploring the introduction of online marking, i.e. the scanning of Leaving Cert and Junior Cert papers so they can be accessed online by the examiners for marking.
The new system started in 2016 with Junior Cert higher level French and the same process was introduced for Junior Cycle English in 2017.
This year, online marking is being extended to Leaving Cert maths, chemistry, physics, biology, politics and society and LCVP.
At Junior Cycle, business and science have been added.
How will this impact candidates? For most, it will have very little impact and some may not even notice that anything has changed from their experience of past papers and mocks.
The exam structure will be exactly the same as before, with the same layout as seen in previous years. However, in some papers, answer booklets may look a little different from those used in previous years. For example, the short answer section of the Leaving Cert biology paper is now a separate, returnable section.
New answer books have been created for use in chemistry, physics and biology. These will contain both writing and graph paper. It is important for candidates to understand that just because graph paper has been provided, it does not mean it will be required, so they should not be thrown off by this. We have been advised that there will be ample paper available in these booklets and candidates should not require extra paper. Therefore, exam superintendents have been asked not to supply any extra paper unless the student has already filled their answer booklet.
In previous years, it was possible, and sometimes preferable, to ask for any graph paper or extra paper one might require early so that it is to hand when required. The original answer booklets only contained blank writing paper. In the new answer booklets, there will also be a place for students to indicate which question they are about to answer. This must be completed. It is also essential that a new page is used for every answer.
Finally, all of the above subjects should now be completed in black or blue pen only and, specifically, gel pens should not be used. Diagrams should still be completed in pencil. Most students would do this anyway, but it is important to highlight it just in case.
Candidates will now indicate their subject, level and whether they are taking the English or Irish version of the paper by shading in the boxes provided rather than writing the information on the cover.
A little bit of understanding of what to expect should prevent any problems arising.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin