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NZ Scholarship 2007

My predictions fared better this year.  While none of my outstanding cut-off predictions were on the money, three of my scholarship cut-off predictions were, and all of them were within two marks of what actually happened.  These are the predictions I made on this blog after each exam last year, compared with the actual cut-off marks for scholarship and outstanding:

Subject Scholarship Outstanding Maximum
Prediction Actual Diff. Prediction Actual Diff.
 Chemistry 20 22 -2 30 31 -1 40
 Economics 26 27 -1 36 35 +1 48
 English 14 14 0 21 19 +2 24
 Mathematics with Calculus 20 20 0 32 31 -1 40
 Physics 24 24 0 36 33 +3 48

My worst prediction, the outstanding cut-off for physics, follows a similar thread to last year.  Physics again fell considerably short of its quota for outstanding scholarships, awarding them to 0.3% of the cohort instead of the standard 0.4%, a difference of six students.  (That’s a lot when you consider it’s a 25% difference.)  Even so, the cut-off of less than three-quarters of the maximum possible is relatively low.  Indeed, it is the type of exam that feels incredibly easy, but is incredibly hard.  I can almost feel the wrath of the chief examiner—a dissatisfaction with students’ lack of preparation for an elite exam was mentioned for both 2005 and 2006—coming through in his report again.

Each of my subjects this year used numbers, ticks and crosses (or in the case of physics, circles); no obscure letter-codes from chemistry this year.  There were few real surprises with the marking: nothing to discover or unravel, since it was largely the same as last year.  English and economics were effectively identical in format.  Chemistry had one less question, which made no real difference to anything, and physics was largely the same too, save for there being no question on which even the brightest of physicists scored zero.

The scholarship calculus exam, of course, has a history of being the centre of attention.*  I commented shortly after that exam that it was, once again, progressively easier than previous years, after apparent over-estimation of this country’s talent by the examiner.  I based my prediction on this statement, saying that as the great re-marking of last year, where the marking schedule was made considerably more lenient in order to push the pass mark up to 20, would not need to occur again, the outstanding cut-off would fall from 35 to 32.  From what I can gather from other candidates, as I guessed, minor errors were not looked upon as forgivingly as last year.  The actual cut-off of 31—one lower than my prediction—more or less reflects this.

This round being the scholarship exam’s fourth, the exams have become progressively more predictable.  How subjects that fail to meet quota—in this exam round, art history, graphics, physical education, and technology, the last of which awarded scholarships to a mere 1.2% of its cohort, well short of the 3% quota—remedy this under-performance (or indeed, whether they do so) could be interesting.  Given the requirement for successful candidates to meet a standard, though, it is probably inconceivable that any subject will take measures as drastic as calculus has in previous years.  Once the right formula has been found though, these exams are likely to become as predictable as any other, and the problems of the last few years will be but a speck in the history books.

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Permalinks to earlier related posts

* For those whose memories extend not that far back, in 2005 the calculus exam was publicly criticised for being too hard and unfair to bright students when it emerged that the pass mark, in order to meet the quota, was 20 out of 120.

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