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  1. Good evening,
    I am a year 12 drama teacher in Townsville and was wondering what the GA1, GA2 And GA3 mean? is that new… and also what is go with my students study score? How does it work.. quit and utterly confused..

  2. Hi Justine and Justin,
    Drama and Theatre Studies can be so hard to gauge.
    I am at a relatively small rural school. Last year I had 6 students do ¾ Drama and I was fairly pleased with their results. In particular in the solo performances I had two students receive A+s and subsequently Top Acts auditions. (They didn’t progress past there).
    This year 5 of those students chose to do ¾ Theatre Studies (my first time teaching TS!). Their results were a mixed bag. One of the students received a Top Acts audition again which is hugely exciting, the other who I also thought was A (high A) received a C+? Other students who hadn’t prepared scored higher. I was confused to say the least and she was very disappointed.
    The 5 students scored from a 47 study score to a 24. The 47 was thoroughly deserved but some of the other grades remain a mystery and with little or no feedback it’s hard to follow up.

      1. I was an am thrilled with the 47.
        The same student also received a Theatre Guild award for supporting actress for her Penny P in Hairspray.
        Major high flyer and shooting star right there.

  3. Hi Justin. This was my first year teaching Unit 3/4 Drama. I am happy that I had my ranking of the students almost exactly correct, but they did score lower than I had indicated.

    I recall you saying at the new teachers to vce drama PD that a very small percentage of students get an A+ – So i didn’t set the students too high- but I did have 2 students who I felt could/should get As. In the end, they each got a B+ for their solos- which they were a bit disappointed with, but for me, I suppose that means I was just a bit off?

    On the lower end, I had 3 students who, between 6 weeks and 1 week before their performance had made no progress. They hadn’t added/changed script in that time, but the day before I saw a 6 minute performance that weren’t great, but weren’t terrible. They ended up with E+. This was more of a surprise for me because I thought they might have received D’s. To me an E+ is just a bit better than showing up! So I wonder, too, if they’re just as harsh at the lower end of the scale?

    A lot of my students thought the written exam was ‘pretty easy’ but during revision, it was clear that they didn’t realise some of the complexities to the questions and weren’t answering the whole question. My top student completed all the past practice exams (which you had sent me, thanks!) and continually reworked her answers and she received an A+. I was really happy with that.

    I don’t really have a question here, just observations. There are no other drama teachers at the school that I can chat to about my results. The student who got B+ performance and A+ Exam ended up with a 39. Like all teachers, I can’t help but think if I’d pushed her a bit more in her performance, if it hadn’t been my first year teaching it etc, she could have broken into the 40s- but I’m still pleased with the results- just baffled about the two ends of the spectrum (the E+s)


    1. Hi Justine,

      I’d be very happy with those two B+ solos grades in my first year teaching Year 12 Drama. If I got any A/A+s, then I’d be running around the school singing! Your students have done well. You may not have been a bit off with your estimates, as it may simply have ended up that way to suit the VCAA’s bell curve for Drama results. In that PD session, I may have mentioned the worst situation I have come across from public VCAA data, where in 2008 only a 228, 229, 230 and 231 out of a possible 231 marks (3 assessors x 77 marks each) received the A+ grade for that year’s solo performance exam! Whoa! That’s a pretty tight A+ range!

      In regard to those E+s. I would say it is highly likely you/your students are misinterpreting one or more assessment criteria, which is easy enough to do. As I have suggested in the comment above, I’d go to the VCAA data your school should have as to where your class averaged on each criterion compared to the state. It gives you an indication for comparison and is valuable in its own right (eg if on Criterion 5 your class average was only 4 out of a possible 11 marks, then you know where to fix things up in the future). If your class average was not 100% 7/7 for Criterion 1 in the solo exam, then unfortunately some of your students were in the 3% in the state who got less than 100% for this criterion and it is safe to assume these were the E+ grades in your class. This is because if 7/7 was not awarded for Criterion 1 in the solo exam, the assessors are not permitted to award full marks for any of the remaining 10 criteria. The overall grade lowers significantly in this case.

      As for the Drama written exams, I’d say nearly every other year they look deceptively easy and straightforward. Of course, if it IS a relatively easy exam, then your students would have to do remarkably well on it to get the A or A+ anyway, because a lot of students marks will be standardised down to get the bell curve. The first thing I said to colleagues after this year’s Drama exam was that in my opinion, the students who did additional past papers as practice exam would be getting the better grades. If for no other reason than the sheer exposure to other types of questions and the wording in them, these students should have been at an advantage. I’ve worked hard the past few years in improving my students’ written exam grades by being very strategic in my preparation and improving grey areas or areas of weakness in my teaching. It has paid off and I have noticed a direct correlation in this period over the past three or four years and higher student grades.

      As for the 39 study score, it hurts, yeah!? Hate those 39s!


  4. Hi Justin, I take on board the comment you have left, but it seems staggering how some of these marks could possibly be correct. Having watched and evaluated my students performances a number of times and having had several teachers watch each student’s performances, it is beyond all reasonable logic that some of my students(including one who basically improvised his piece on the day) could recieve a higher mark than two of my other students who in several staff members opinions were significantly stronger in all facets.

    I am not upset that our school has been somehow ripped off (several students recieved marks well above what they deserved, several students well under) but the actual solo performance exam structure itself. I know that it is hard to get it exacty right in regards to marking, but year in year out the marks we(meaning a number of teachers I have taught with over the years) estimate for each student is inexplicably off the mark.

    While my exact marking of each child’s performance may be too generous/harsh, I fail to believe that I could get the ‘ranking’ of my students Solo performances so wrong. I know that the students can not give their best performance on the day, or others step up to a higher level, but the randomness of some of these marks just defies all belief and logic.

    I am starting to think that is worthless spending any great deal of time on the Solo performance pieces as the final marking is just a raffle anyway. If the student can fudge a good mark, good luck to them, but it seems pointless wasting students time and energy when making it up on the day seems to work just as well.

    1. Yep, I can see you are understandably frustrated. Receiving the solo performance results is always a tricky time. I would like to suggest data as a possible solution and recommend the following:

      Go back to your indicative grades for the solo performance examination and match them up with the actual grades received from the VCAA. See how close or far away you were with each student? This is always a good exercise and I do it every year with my own grades. I set myself a goal not to be more than two grades away with each student – eg. my indicative grade was a B+ and the student received a C+. If I’m more than two grades away, I assume I got it wrong and not the VCAA assessors. Then I go about a way of improving the situation.

      Now go to the solo performance assessment criteria breakdown from the VCAA. Each school should receive this data, but check with your VCE/VASS coordinator. I usually receive this data in February of the following year, but this year I received it in the envelope with my class grades on 16 December. This data breaks down each of the 11 assessment criteria, showing where your class averaged compared to the state average. I find this very useful data. In a big class it can be skewed a bit, but in smaller classes where you are confident all students understood and applied Criterion 3 successfully to their solo, for example, but the VCAA data shows they did not, then having the actual criteria next to you will perhaps show your interpretation of that criterion is very different to how the VCAA assessors are interpreting it.

      From here, you can seek advice from colleagues at different schools, more experienced colleagues, colleagues elsewhere who are VCAA assessors (who in general terms may be able to offer advice) etc. You now have very specific data and precise questions for where you need to adapt or reinterpret in the future. Of course, I would always recommend attending Drama Victoria professional development opportunities throughout the year. Often teachers are unaware they are also able to ring the Performing Arts Manager at the VCAA with any questions in relation to specific tasks. If necessary, you may be forwarded on to the exam unit at the VCAA, but you should get answers. I would even recommend going to another school you may know consistently receives high study scores in Drama (eg Xavier College, MLC – check the other post with VCE High Achievers and look these schools up). Attend their Drama solo night to see the standard they are presenting and how they may be doing solos differently to yours? You can always attend Top Class Drama, also. Great PD, though a little hit and miss sometimes.

      I’ve heard plenty of stories over the years about students improvising parts of their solos on the day and receiving acceptable grades, but this has never been the case with myself. I honestly believe a student cannot “wing” a Drama solo. The task is just too damn hard.

      Hope this helps.


      1. Hi Justin,

        Cheers for the in depth reply. Now that my blood has stopped boiling and having had a read through your comments, I can see that on the whole my students were within the range of my predicted marks, if not always the way I would have liked.

        I just was so disheartened that a student who put in such minimal effort(despite his obvious acting talents) that he gets a C+ while other students who busted their guts and had some really innovative ideas manage only a C.

        I just wonder what you think of using a ‘structured Impro’ path with weaker students, ie getting students to have a general idea of what they will do for each dot point and then ‘improvising’ their piece on the day- it takes away the hours upon hours of work on blocking that doesn’t seem to boost the ‘weaker’ students work anyway.

        I’m starting to think that the task is so hard that unless you are an extremely talented actor/actress that taking a more relaxed approach to blocking and scripting will actually serve you better, or at least as well. I just fear that for many students the stress of getting the blocking/lines/transformations perfect stops them from actually ‘performing’ their piece.

        Your thoughts on possibly taking this approach?

        1. We are definitely on the same page in regards to the complexity of the solo performance examination task. To say it is rigorous is an understatement. So, as you suggest, it’s all about strategy for different types of learners in our classrooms.

          The improvised approach is a great idea, particularly for weaker students, though if it were me I’d steer clear of improvising on the day as I think this is too much of a risk if a student wants to receive an acceptable grade. I think careful planning of scenes and techniques, accompanied with looser rehearsals that are improvised and not scripted is a great idea. There is nothing that actually says in the Drama study design that a student must script their solo, and although I would argue most students do script, improvising the piece is more in the spirit of the task. However, I believe the piece should be rehearsed improvisation if going down this path.

          In regards to how frustrating it is when a student who puts so much effort in to the task receives a lower grade than the student who put it all together at the last minute, unfortunately as teachers we have to put this aside, as the assessors only see what is presented before them on the day.

          I believe THE most important part of the entire task is students choosing the most appropriate exam character for their interests and ability. From start to finish the exam is actually a six month task – roughly three months of it being available before students spend another three months or so working on it. I always distribute the exam when first published in the April VCAA Bulletin and for the next three months allocate both formal and informal time to chat to my students about their developing ideas in regards to character choice. This way, by the time they start the task in class, they are both comfortable and confident in their decision making and the road ahead creating their piece.