The relationship between the phrasing of examination questions and candidates interpretation and response with reference to geography and general science centralised junior secondary examinations in Zambia

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Nyirenda, Obster Gorebrowne
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The dissertation reports an investigation of the relationship between the phrasing of examination questions and candidates' interpretation and response. The investigation emanated from a suspicion that the inappropriate phrasing of questions was one of the major causes of candidates' poor performance in examinations. This suspicion was supported by the identification of a large number of linguistically inadequate questions in the 1984-87 Junior Secondary School Examinations (JSSLE). Specifically, the study sought to find out if the way an examination question is worded influences a candidate's thinking, interpretation and answer. Two composite test papers, each with General Science and Geography questions (extracted from the 1984-87 national examination papers) were administered to a randomly selected sample of 100 Grade IX pupils in two Zambian Secondary Schools. In each School one group sat for a test of actual and linguistically inadequate questions, while the other sat for a corrected version of the same paper. After the tests, the language of each paper was discussed with each group of pupils separately. The two papers were discussed with the teachers as well. The language use in examination papers and the preparation of examinations were discussed with Training Institutions and the Lusaka - based educational authorities. The analyses of the data established, inter alia, four important findings: 1. Pupils who had sat the corrected version performed better than those who had sat the original test paper. 2. Pupils of both groups had difficulty interpreting the examination jargon. 3. There were great disagreements over the interpretation of the examination terminology among subject teachers and the University of Zambia educational experts. 4. Training institutions were not consulted on the preparation of examination questions. In the conclusions, the report makes various pertinent and practical recommendations based on the analyses of the data.
Examinations -- Questions , Examinations -- Interpretation , Geography -- Examinations, questions, etc