Thursday, 15 May 2008

Misconceptions...and exam resits

A friend sent me this story on Tuesday...all true apparently (although a FOAF story...)

This is an account of a conversation overheard in a hospital waiting room this afternoon. There is a misconception here, which you may spot!, which seems to have linguistic origins.

An elderly lady ('granny') was having a scan accompanied by a younger woman ('mother'). As she came out from the scan a teenage girl arrived in a hurry and a little worked-up. 'Just in time' said mother, they were just finished here. The teenager was asked how her exam had gone. Well, she reported, it would have been okay if it had been the examination that she had revised for, and that her teacher had prepared her for. However the examination was not what she had expected.

This was all very loud, and although not deliberately announced to the room there was no attempt to keep the conversation private (so I feel justified in reporting it).

Apparently the girl had gone to the teacher after the exam to complain that she had been misled, and the teacher had offered sympathy for any misunderstanding, but asked why she had not come along to the special revision sessions that had been put on. The girl told her mother and gran that she would have gone to these sessions if she had realised it might help, but had not thought they would be needed.

It transpired that the examination was a resit. She had got a D grade previously, but as she had found the examination easy [I think most examinations are easy if the target is simply to sit the examination, rather than pass it] she had decided to resit. She had paid to get her examination script and I assume a report, and had spent time going through it with her teacher who had advised her on what she would need to write when she re-sat the examination. She had also spent time revising based on this advice so that she knew what to write when she retook the examination.

However, and you may be ahead of me here, when she got into the examination room and opened the paper, she had a nasty shock.
Although she had paid to retake the examination, when she read the paper she was being asked different questions! So she was not (in her
interpretation) getting a chance to resit the examination after all, but being given a new totally different examination. All that hard work going through her mistakes, and seeking advice on what she needed to write when she took the examination again [sic], were wasted because it was not the same examination at all, but a completely different one.

Presumably the young lady was at least 17, and unless she was putting on a very good show she was entirely genuine. So we should perhaps be very careful in using expressions like 'when you take the examination again' as the blatantly obvious may not always be so to all our students.

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