Dec 172012
 
OWLS

Notice that the paper has a grid instead of lines. This is called “French Kid Paper” at DD’s school because the French schools prefer their students to use grids so that their writing can be more uniform. Also note that the form comes in French, German and English. This are the three main languages of the EU.

This week is all about Exams at Hogwarts.  Remember how in the HP books the kids had to take OWL tests and every American thought “What the heck is that?  Sort of like Finals, I guess?”  These are those- only it turns out they are a little more complicated than just “finals”. There really isn’t a good 1: 1 American equivalent, but from what I can figure, they are sort of a cross between finals and standardized subject-based tests like the ACT.

The tests themselves are given twice per year in all the core classes for the upper-grade students.  So, for DD this year that means: English, Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, French and German.  Next year, I think, she will also get a History test of some sort.

They are a little more stressful than normal finals in the States.  First, they go on your permanent record.  And second, if students do not do well on particular tests in certain years, they may not be allowed to continue studying that subject at the school.  So if, for instance, a particular student is in the High Level Maths tract but bombs the Maths exam, s/he may be put into the lower level tract.  Also, student grades for the semester come in two parts- 1 set of grades for classwork and another set for the Exams.

The Exams for the European School are designed in in Belgium.  This is because the European Schools were meant to support the European Union Parliament, which is headquartered in Belgium.  Belgium is also where that wonderfully awful science book was designed, so that can give some perspective.

There are tests in any number of languages.  But, I am not convinced that they are are created by native speakers of those languages.  Nor are the proctors necessarily fluent in the language of the exam they are giving.  For instance, today DD took the exam English as a first language.  The proctor a non-english-speaking Francophone. DD reports that one reading passage involved someone “ostentatiously” cutting their meat.  She is guessing few of the students were able to glean the definition from context clues on that one.  And one of the essay questions on the test used the word “what” in place of “why”– but that might have just been a typo.

Like most tests at Hogwarts, the Exams will be graded on a 10 point scale and have a standardized rubric applied to them.  The students were given formats to use for essay questions and several points are awarded just for remembering to use this more formal writing form.

We honestly have no clue when we will receive the grades, but presumably it won’t be until the New Year- so something to look forward to :)

Wish us luck!

  2 Responses to “Exams: Like OWLS only more Belgian”

  1. It is my firm belief that luck is not needed in the case of your most bright and ostentatiously
    intelligent offspring.

  2. The French (and presumably now the EU) have a more standardized approach to education. My understanding is that an education ministry official could tell you what was being taught at what grade level at any given time across the country. A national standardized test with more weight than the American SATs certainly speaks to this.

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