Friday 24 May 2013

New e-exam for A-level Mother Tongue B

By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 23 May 2013

FOR the first time, students taking a national examination will have to complete a part of it on a computer, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced yesterday.

Around 300 students in 20 junior colleges taking the A-level Mother Tongue Language "B" exam in November will be the first to take the e-examination.

The "B" programme was introduced to A-level students in 2003 to help those who faced difficulties in the subject.

The "B" exam consists of three parts - oral and a listening component makes up half, 30 per cent is on comprehension and language use, while the rest is functional writing. Students will complete their functional writing exam using a laptop. They will have to type an e-mail or a blog entry.

The use of print or electronic dictionaries will still be allowed.

At St Andrew's Junior College yesterday, MOE deputy director- general of education Wong Siew Hoong said the introduction of the e-exam is in line with a recommendation by the Mother Tongue Languages Review Committee in 2010 that information and communications technology be used to enhance learning.

He added that students in the "B" programme were selected to have the e-exam as they "are the ones who will require a lot more authenticity in their learning".

For students taking the Chinese "B" exam, they will type their responses using romanised hanyu pinyin. The system will then prompt the student with the appropriate Chinese characters.

Concerns that the e-exam will compromise the learning of Chinese characters were addressed by Mr Yue Lip Sin, director of assessment research at the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.

He said recognising the characters is as important as knowing how to write them. "What is important is whether they are able to communicate the idea and the feeling in the functional writing."

St Andrew's Junior College student Bryan Hui, 17, who will be sitting for the Chinese "B" paper at year end, said the e-exam appeals to him, "as it is a platform I'm most familiar with". "The system also prompts you with suggested words, so if I recognise the word, I can use it. Previously... I have to check the dictionary, which is very time-consuming."

Fellow schoolmate Martens Laura Elizabeth, 17, who will be taking the Malay "B" exam, said: "The e-exam helps me to organise my thoughts better, because I can easily rearrange my sentences and paragraphs."

The e-exam will be introduced to O-level students under the Mother Tongue Language B programme next year. Short videos, instead of pictures, will be used during the oral exams for both O- and A-level Mother Tongue Language B exams next year.

The e-exam: How it works

- Starting this year, students taking the A-level Mother Tongue Language "B" exam will complete the functional writing section, which makes up 20 per cent, using a laptop.

- Like before, they can use a print or electronic dictionary.

- Students will be asked to compose either an e-mail or a blog entry during the exam.

- If they choose to do an e-mail, the system will provide them with an e-mail to respond to.

If they opt to type a blog entry, four images will be shown on the screen. Students are required to compose an entry based on one of them.

- Each laptop is fitted with a privacy screen, so that the students will not be able to see what others are typing.

- Students have to finish within 50 minutes. When the time is up, the system will not allow them to work on their answer.

- Answers will be saved on two locations - the laptop's hard drive, and an external thumb drive as a backup.

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