NZQA History Exam Reveals New Zealand Students Don’t Know What 'Trivial' Means

2 years ago



How often do you hear the word “trivial” in everyday language? Turns out, for year 13 students in New Zealand the word is rare and unfamiliar. Especially, when they encounter it during their history exam. The Typical Student team previously told you about 12 HARDEST Words of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Contest 2018 and “trivial” wasn’t one of them!


How “Trivial” Becomes Confusing?



As told by Staff, senior New Zealand students have started a petition with a request for exam essays to be marked based on students' own definition of the "unfamiliar" word. So far, over 1300 students have signed the petition. The reason for starting a petition was the NZQA Level 3 History exam that senior students sat in. Apparently, some of them had been confused with the word in a quote from Julius Caesar: "Events of importance are the result of trivial causes."


In the exam task, students were asked to explain if they agreed or disagreed with Caesar, with reference to the causes and consequences of a historical event. One of the students admitted he was "lucky" to understand the word, but at least half of his class didn't. He said that some of his peers were afraid of being penalised for not understanding the word, while others thought trivial meant "significant". What caused the most confusion is that "trivial isn't a word that you hear too frequently, especially not if you're in Year 13," according to the student.


Will “Trivial” Be Removed From NZQA?



According to the Chairman of the New Zealand History Teachers' Association, Graeme Ball, said the language used in questions should be "accessible to all". As the exam was not testing comprehension, it was "unfair" to make that part of the assessment. The NZQA spokeswoman said the words used in the exam question were “expected to be within the range of vocabulary for a NCEA Level 3 History student." Still, no penalty is foreseen for misinterpreting the word 'trivial'.

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