Life After The Drama Exam

Well, the Drama written examination is now over and I see hundreds of smiling faces out there! It’s good to knock a subject over for the last time, even if for many students, Drama may have be their favourite subject at school. For students who have acting running through their veins, Drama withdrawal symptoms should start to kick in soon (that is, if they haven’t already).

This year’s Drama written exam was, in my opinion, quite similar to the 2005 paper. I didn’t think it was a particularly difficult examination. Thankfully, there weren’t any tricky or ambiguous questions. In the past few years, there was an example of an and/or question that was a bit ambiguous and another mentioning non-naturalistic stagecraft elements that threw a few for six, also. But on the 2006 exam, there was in fact, a lack of terms used in the questions, if anything, which resulted in little possibility of confusion or concern for candidates.

Now at this point, it is important to mention I don’t correct Drama written exam papers. I don’t think I’d be blogging about it if I did! While I really would like to correct papers, I simply don’t have the time these days and now have a confliict of interests, anyway. So, my comments come from the same side of the fence as most of us, reacting to a paper that is now sitting on my desk at work, waiting to be filed (or for those who have seen my desk, you will know filing is not one of my strengths!).

I suppose there were a few words used in some of the questions that everyone will wonder whether they interpreted correctly. I simply interpreted dramatic moment literally in Questions 2 and 4 and understood ideas in Question 3 to mean themes. In the last few questions on the paper, most students could interpret exaggerated movement successfully to answer the question, even if they forgot the VCAA definition. Potentially, many more theatrical conventions or glossary definitions used in the solo performance exam booklet could have appeared in a question on the written exam, so more difficult terms than exaggerated movement could very easily have been included in a question (the 2004 paper is a prime example, with a dozen terms offered under the stimulus image ranging from caricature to lyrical and symbolic. I’m also hoping that students remembered the VCAA definition of disjointed time sequences in Question 4 doesn’t just mean events in the drama with gaps in time between them, but events presented out of chronological order.

On that note, the solo performance stimulus question (No.4) was very similar to the 2005 paper in that it was a story. The Drama written exam has only existed since 2001 and this question used a photograph from 2001 to 2004. In 2005 it was the story of the Eureka Stockade and this year of course it was the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Personally, I prefer the story stiumulus to an image. There is more concrete examples students can respond to because detailed written information is presented on the paper before them. Just with the Eureka Stockade last year, the Snowy Mountains story was full of real life drama and students shouldn’t have had any difficulty finding dramatic moments from within the story for their responses.

My only real gripe with the Drama exam is the length of it. I didn’t have to correct exam papers last year to know that oodles of students didn’t finish the paper. In 2005 it was 11 questions to be completed in 90 minutes of writing time. But this year it was 13 questions in the same amount of time with 6 questions worth 6 marks, 5 questions worth 5 marks and 2 questions worth 2 marks (a little weird how that happened, eh?). Just under half the exam paper was worth maximum marks, so there really wasn’t room for knocking off too many questions quickly. My hope is that students who did the 2005 paper as a practice exam realised how fast they needed to generate responses and write them down, as a result learning good exam techniques for this year’s paper and so finished it.

Finally, of course if a candidate doesn’t understand non-naturalism (known as non/anti-realistic theatre in other parts of the world) then they’re in a spot of bother, considering the whole Year 12 Drama course is based around its principles. This is not something I blog about lightly, as there are still students out there who do not fully understand this term.

Now the nervous wait for the Drama solo performance and written exam marks….

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