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Remember that problematic matric exam maths question? ‘Valuable lessons’ learnt, says Umalusi

Remember that problematic matric exam maths question? ‘Valuable lessons’ learnt, says Umalusi
Students at Brackenfell High School, Cape Town begin the annual National Senior Certificate Examinations on 31 October 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

Wondering what happened with the unsolvable maths problem and other dodgy questions from last year’s NSC matric exams? Well, this week Umalusi confirmed it had consulted with the relevant assessment bodies to apply for marking concessions. It asked for the questions to be excluded entirely or partially from the exam papers — and said some concessions had been granted.

In addition to the challenges presented by writing exams amid rolling blackouts, the matric class of 2022 had to manoeuvre around what Umalusi described as “problematic” questions in the following subjects:

  • Mathematics paper 2;
  • Sepedi language paper 2;
  • Maths literacy paper 2;
  • History paper 2; and
  • English paper.

These exam papers had questions that were either incorrect or had specific details missing, which meant pupils could not answer them.

On Monday, Umalusi — which sets and monitors education standards — confirmed that it had consulted with the relevant assessment bodies to apply for marking concessions with regard to the problematic questions.

Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Ramoketsi said they had asked for the questions to be excluded entirely or partially from the question papers, and that some of the concessions had been granted. 

trig question

The ‘impossible’ seven-mark question in the matric maths exam paper.

Daily Maverick has been reporting on the “impossible” trigonometry question in Mathematics paper, 2 written on 7 November. It was, therefore, important to inform our readers on the resolution adopted for the maths problem.

Read our previous reports on the problematic question here, here and here.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Ramoketsi said: “Regarding the impossible Maths paper 2 problem question 5.1 worth 7 marks, after consulting with various relevant bodies, the question was excluded from the paper such that the exam was marked and assessed out of 143 instead of 150 marks.”

Prof Yunus Ballim, chair of the Umalusi Council, told the media on Monday that Umalusi had appointed a three-person independent panel to investigate how the error might have crept in and remained undetected until the final question paper was administered by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on 7 November.

“In terms of process, the panel audited four processes linked to the question paper, which are: the examination paper development process, external moderating process, editing and typesetting process, and proof-reading process.

“The panel evaluated the documents provided and interviewed the examiners, internal and external moderators, and language editors. Based on that, the finding of the panel is that the error in Mathematics paper 2 November 2022 occurred at the last step in the chain of internal and external moderation and language editing and typesetting processes.”

Ballim added that standardisation processes — the upward adjustment of the marks for students in mathematics — had dealt with the error in the mathematics paper.

“Umalusi and the DBE have derived valuable lessons from the panel’s work in terms of how to manage real or perceived errors in any question paper going forward.

“The lessons should be extended to the rest of the assessment bodies to strengthen the systems continuously,” he concluded. DM


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