External assessment is more reliable than internal

12th June 2009 at 01:00

Your editorial of May 22 suggests you are unaware that some internal assessment is lacking in rigour - to put it in layman's terms: some people cheat.

In my own subject at Standard grade, internal assessment forms 20 per cent of the overall award, and I have perhaps a one in five chance of verification each year - so that's a grade 1 assessment all round, and get the kids in to tart things up via dictation if I get caught. Sorry, that happens.

In contrast, the external exam is a breath of fresh air because the SQA does not allow you to mark your own pupils and, as it moves more towards online marking with automatic sampling to ensure consistency, the opportunity to cheat is rapidly diminishing - even if you wanted to boost the mark of some pupil you had never heard of.

There is no comparison. Under one system, you can help or massage results ("that was a practice" is my favourite). In the other, you mark scripts of anonymous pupils - some of whom are "seeded" (already marked, so yours can be compared to the "official" version). If you deviate from the norm in the external exam, your marking is halted and remedial work undertaken until you show you can mark accurately.

Your editorial compares apples with oranges. There is no contest: external assessment is far and away more reliable than internal.

Dave Baker, principal teacher, cynicism.

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