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A Bad Exam Result?


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Has anyone had to deal with a bad exam result that did not reflect your DD/DS ability?  

 

We are awaiting this years RAD results and at the back of my mind I'm wondering what this year may bring? Last year followed two days of sobbing on her bed as she missed out on a Dist by two marks for the first time ever!  She never cries at anything!

 

We had thought as her dancing ability has just soared and watching at her pre-exam session she should have easily been into the high 80s.  I'm always honest with DD and she knows ballet is a tough world but I came out for this first time and said to her WOW!

 

Just wondering if anyone else has had an examiner that didn't see the potential or could it just have been a bad day for DD?  

 

(ps this isn't a criticism about examiners)

 

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Definitely. Exams can plain go wrong or an examiner can be especially tough. We had one very tough situation. Elmhurst repeatedly cocked up exam entrances and Martin had to end up going down to Bristol. We live in Kent so I had to drive from Kent to Birmingham then down to Bristol. Fortunately stayed with my brother. But the venue was completely new. Floor dreadful. So slippery even the examiner commented!!! Martin just did badly. He was furious with Elmhurst and their appalling attitude (as was I), furious that due to their incompetence we'd had this rigmarole. Staying on the floor in someones house hadn't helped. My sister-in law wouldn't let him have a salt bath. So he wasn't in the right frame of mind.

 

It was his worst result, only time he didn't get a distinction. But as he said despite everything it was down to him in the end. Also the higher level vocational results do matter for comps and potential Solo Seal. Anyway this was his Adv 1. Back on track for Ad2 and though he could have done Solo Seal again due to the mess Elmhurst was in at the time never happened for Martin's year.

 

Re examiners I'd say there are those known to be tough so the whole class does worse than hoped but the marking criteria is quite strict so it is unusual for there to be issues with one person. Though I'm sure does happen.

 

In the professional world these exams are actually pretty irrelevant but to those taking them at the time they are very important. But as with any exam children need to accept they can have a bad day or simply just not be at a particular level. Traditionally those moving to vocational levels can be in for a big shock if they have always had distinctions before!

 

And we have had advantageous exams. One exam up at RAD in Battersea Martin came out beaming and obviously very happy. When we were alone he said it was the "funniest" exam ever. 4 boys and he was the only one who actually knew what he was doing. He said the others didn't know the exercises and weren't prepared. At one point the examiner seemed to despair, nicely. When he thanked her at the end she fervently said "no thank You!!!" He did very very well!!

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Two marks off a distinction is not a "bad result"!  But nonetheless it is hard for young students used to much higher marks.

 

But the higher the grade (especially vocational) the harder it is to get very high marks and students also have to remember that certain elements are subjective, for example one examiner may really like the way a student performs and give high marks for this another may well have the opposite view being more concerned about absolute correct technique for example.

 

In the long run, actual marks in an exam count for nothing - none of the ads in company auditions were remotely interested.  They take who they like and won't be influenced by an examiners view of one exam on one day a couple of years previously.

 

All exam successes should be celebrated regardless of result. It concerns me sometimes that some students reading this forum may get dispirited because they may "only" have merit because it is so difficult not to compare.  

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There is certainly room for subjective opinion in the RAD marking criteria re performance. What one examiner loves, another may well find affected and irritating. We saw this with the remarks made by a dual examiner when she was one of the judges for a competition; she clearly felt that a particular candidate's style and performance was affected, while another judge loved it.

 

At the end of the day you can be lucky in that everything 'goes right' for you, the conditions in the exam studio are perfect and the examiner likes your style - or you can be unlucky with the opposite. I think the RAD vocational exams are as much about having the maturity to understand this as about having the ability and maturity to perform the work. If you and your teachers know that you were dancing at distinction level but that isn't the result you received, surely that is all that matters - an exam is a tiny snapshot of one day and the result in itself, as hfbrew says, counts for nothing in the long run (although yes, it is upsetting and frustrating at first).

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And it does seem to happen the opposite way too. My DD's teacher was once most perturbed about how uncharacteristically high one particular girl's mark was. She knew, knowing her standard and knowledge of the exam on going in, that it was way out of kilter. Especially comparing it to the other marks. Maybe she thought that she and another girl had been mixed up - I can't really remember. She did say she was going to speak to RAD to clarify but I don't know whether she did.

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Firstly I would agree that two marks off of a distinction isnt a 'bad mark' but our DC do set high standards for themselves!

 

As has been said many a time on this forum the only comparison you can make with exam marks is how you are ranked on the days results.  You may get a 70 but that could be the examiners highest mark of the day!

 

It does work both ways though, my DD once got a 96 for a high level exam - whilst I thought she would have been in the 80's, this was exceptionally high although not all the marks were so good I think the examiner was very generous of my DD's presentation.  It bought a lovely smile to her face but I did bring her back to earth quickly suggesting that she had been 'lucky' and that she shouldnt feel deflated when future marks didn't match that.

 

There does seem to be a wide variance in the interpretation fo the marking scheme. 

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It is very disappointing for students when they don't get the mark in an exam that they think they should or could have got but we have to try to help them keep things in perspective, learn any lessons that there are to be learned and move on. I think it is impossible to remove all subjectivity from a discipline like dance. We all have different preferences and tastes and examiners are bound to be influenced to some degree by their personal feeelings. And of course they can only mark what they see, and on some occasions candidates, for whatever reason, don't do themselves justice. My DD did a selection of modern and tap exams this week and says that for some reason her feet took on a life of their own part way through her silver tap award, and not in a good way! She's not expecting a good mark, but is fairly sanguine about it all, and had the rest of the family in stitches demonstrating her allegedly possessed tap shoes in the kitchen afterwards! I know she is cross with herself but I am proud of her for taking it in such a good humoured way. That said, lets wait for the result - as others have said, sometimes marks can be unexpectedly good rather than disappointing so she might get a pleasant surprise, you never know.

But in the final analysis whilst a great result is the source of great rejoicing at the time, and a disappointing one may lead to tears, both feelings are fairly transient. Once the exam is done there is something else to focus on and always another challenge round the corner. As long as a student is enjoying the work and learning something along the way, whether about dancing, life or both, that's what really matters.

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My got some very odd marks once, every section given a 7. When she saw the report she said,"Well that's not mine, is it? They look like someone else's marks".

 

She is very well aware off her relative strengths and weaknesses in each section, and every other exam before and since has shown a range of marks consistent with her abilities.

 

In the end we decided to put it in a drawer and forget about it!

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I think exam results can be a bit of a lottery and cause upset at the time they are announced if they are lower than expected/deserved. In my experience this is usually short lived as after a few days, everyone moves on and past results are generally forgotten. Over the years, my daughter has had higher marks than she or I expected and vice versa so I suppose it balances itself out eventually.  In the overall scheme of things, they are only a snapshot and both candidates and examiners can have off days. 

For her RAD Inter exam, many years ago, daughter had an examiner who was rumoured to be very harsh. We travelled to somewhere in the depths of Bristol and the examiner was the most miserable (daughter's opinion not mine) that she'd ever experienced. She wasn't hopeful of passing the exam as she felt the examiner was disapproving of everything she did. In the end, she got a merit so it was a lot better than expected. Rumour had it there was some controversy regarding the  examiner's marking and it was reputed that she 'disappeared' from the exam circuit for a while.  Never sure whether this was fact or fiction though.  

For her Adv 2, daughter had to travel to the Merseyside/Wirral area from Manchester. It was the middle of November, the exam time was 6pm and she was the only candidate. Her train from Manchester was late due to an incident on track, she was on her own and had no idea where she was going. Arriving with only minutes to spare meant there was no time for a warm up. She had to put her hair up and change on the train. Daughter ended up having a panic attack part way through the exam only the 2nd one (thankfully) that she'd ever had. The examiner who she'd at first thought was very stern turned out to be really lovely. She put her down on the floor, held her legs up (she thought she was about to faint) whilst daughter sweated all over her designer suit. When she'd recovered, she still had  do the leaps, jumps, dance and pointe work.  Daughter convinced herself she'd failed and refused to phone the school over the Xmas holidays to get her result.  As she was so adamant she'd failed, I resigned myself to the fact I'd be paying for another lot of exam/pianist/hall fees during the next term. Surprisingly though, she got a distinction. I put it down to the sympathy vote and the examiner not wanting another ruined suit.

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I tell my pupils every year that it's not the exam marks that count but the process of training for the exam.  The examiner sees them for a short time and has to mark them on what she sees at that time.  Exam candidates can get quite stressed out and not do their best and sometimes the examiner herself will be in a bad mood for one reason or other.  I had a student who got 52 for IF with a certain examiner.  I was shocked and actually queried it, because it really didn't make sense.  I even received the examiner's notes as part of the query and it still didn't seem justified.  It turned out that all four in the exam (2 from me and 2 from another teacher) got in the low 50's.  My students said that the other two girls were weak technically and also talked to each other in the exam - perhaps that upset the examiner. Two other of my students were in with two strong candidates and all the group did well.   We will never know what really happened, but two years later the same examiner came back and examined again.  This time my student took Intermediate and she gave her 78!!!!

 

Some children are great in exams - others fall to pieces, but as I said at the beginning it's the work that they put into preparing for the exam which advances and strengthens their technique and presentation.  Not all my students choose to take exams and there are those who improve regardless, but as a rule I see a far greater improvement in those who do take the exam.  Also it does depend on which exam you're taking as to whether the mark is considered high or low.  I have an amazing little boy who got 89 for both Grade 5 and IF.  He came to me almost in tears because one of the big girls (presumably to take him down a peg) had said that if he got the same mark he hadn't improved at all!   I had to explain to him that the marking for the grades and the vocational exams was very different and if he had managed to get the same high mark in IF as he got in Grade 5 that meant that he had improved a great deal.

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my dd did say that she thought the examiner mixed her up but I told her to forget it and move on! I wonder though how much attention the vocational schools view ballet grades when they view audition information you send in? I know they look at the photos in great detail.

 

Thanks for all your comments they are very reassuring, fingers crossed though it will be a slightly cheerier summer! Summer schools on the horizon!

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Also, even if they do ask, you don't have to put the actual mark down if you don't want to.  On summer school applications they ask for exam passed and mark, but you can just write Merit or Distinction without the mark.  Actually though in your daughter's case, as she got such a high Merit, I would add it.  However, the question about exams is more to find out what level the child is working at rather than to see how well she did in that exam, because they also know that exam results can't be relied upon to be indicative of the child's talent! 

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Was she allowed to drink in the exam?  In countries with hot climates, water is allowed to be taken into the exam studio and the girls are given a chance to drink and rehydrate two or three times during the exam (depending on length).   I would hope that on the occasional heatwaves in normally temperate climate countries, they would also allow that.

 

Anyway, I hope she did well in spite of the heat - at least her muscles got warm quickly!

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I remember my DD having a particularly bad exam session whereby she got a fabulous grade in her ballet but was then failed in her modern and tap!

 

The examiner in question has a well renowned performing arts college and I remember that at the time we couldn't wait for my dd to turn 14 so she could attend the summer school there. Needless to say, after those results I decided I wasn't giving that examiner a penny of my hard earned cash!! :-D

 

Anyway, whether she or the examiner were having an off day, it was a lesson learnt to dust herself down, deal with the disappointment and carry on working hard.

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Yes they could all take in a water bottle and have a drink, windows were opened and fans were on etc. Nothing else could have been done, it was just one of those things - DD had sweat running into her eyes , they were all in the same boat so to speak, just unfortunate with the heat. Still good old British weather always does it's own thing !

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Autumn days

How has everyone done in their vocational exams in the last sitting? My dd got a good mark but it wasn't quite as high as previous results and has heard that generally speaking the marking is getting more tough!

 

Good luck to everyone still waiting!

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Good luck to everyone - this did make me chuckle though, as 'back in the old days' of the 'executant examinations' of Pre-Elementary, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced most people expected to fail or scrape through! I remember a girl who was a couple of years younger than me who was a super talented dancer, always won everything at festivals, she danced at the All England finals all the time, went to Tring sixth form and won the jazz and contemporary cups in the year she left, and has worked in the West End - anyway she got 'pass' (the lowest mark out of pass, pass plus, commended, highly commended and honours) for both pre-ele and elem exams, and I remember her being so gutted with only getting a pass in pre-ele after "getting honours all through the grades" (and being so successful in festivals etc). It was quite a different ball game then, so when the marking system changed to numbers, and became much fairer and transparent, (circa 2002ish) and I prepared my first ever entrant for Intermediate (the old Elementary syllabus)  we all warned her how hard RAD majors were to do well in  - needless to say she got 75 and a Distinction! We were all bowled over! 

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Yes those were the days that passed at first attempt was a badge of pride! These days the marking system is so much more transparent and not as subjective. All my vocational students passed with distinction which would have been unheard of when I first started teaching!

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I just read this entire thread and it's really interesting! I took my Cecchetti elementary exam many years ago and was quite disappointed with my pass-plus result! A friend of mine failed the exam a few months prior to me taking mine and was entered again a few months later gaining a commended! I could never understand how it was possible to go from a fail to a commended in a matter of months! 
DD's ballet results range from high 80's to high 90's which I find amazing. I keep telling her to be prepared for lower results as she progresses through to higher grades but at the moment I think she is just fortunate enough to be one of those children unfazed by the exam process. She almost goes into them as though she is going on stage to perform for someone rather than to be examined! It obviously works for her at the moment!

As a ballet teaching assistant at my old school I am always really interested in the exam results. It's interesting to see which children rise to the occasion and which ones sometimes unexpectedly seem to crumble. We have just received an incredible set of exam results for our last set of exams with some children obtaining distinctions who I honestly though would be low merits, so you never can tell!  

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I went to a school which was more Russian "style" than RAD, but we had one class of RAD each week for the "Majors".  I never expected to get more than a Pass and actually recorded it in my diary with wonder when a friend passed her Intermediate (now Adv. 1) with Commended!  When I took my Advanced (now Advanced 2) I was at the RBS and everyone was expecting me to pass well, however the examiner was one of the toughest they had.  One of the two girls supposed to be with me went home when she heard who the examiner was, the other girl was on her 7th try or something like that and the poor thing failed again (I actually thought she was quite good) and I got a Pass.  Everyone was in shock that I just passed, but I was so relieved that I didn't care!    

 

The problem with the old system was that if you failed one section you failed the whole exam - even for Pre-Elementary (now IF).  A teacher friend of mine had a really good girl who failed her Elementary.  She was so mad at this injustice that she put her in the following year for both Elementary and Intermediate in the same session.  She got Highly Commended for Elementary and I believe Pass + or Commended for Intermediate, which you were supposed to work on for two years after getting Elementary.  Kids nowadays don't realise how easy they have it!!

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Clara, my DD tends to get similar marks for her Graded exams (passed Grade 5 with a 94 which we were all delighted with) always receiving a high Distinction, but thankfully when she was entering her IF exam in March her teacher had her very well prepared for the difference between the Grades and the Vocation scoring.  She received a high Merit (one off a Distinction and a 9 for her performance section) which she was ecstatic with, as was her teacher - she had told her and her friends that they should be delighted with a Pass as it's so difficult and different from the Grades.

 

The girls have returned for their new term and having moved up to studying for their Intermediate exam she told me that she'd overheard some of the younger girls who are now starting their IF classes saying that they would easily get Distinctions and it wouldn't take them as long as the older girls (DD's group).  That was before their first classes - 3 weeks in they've certainly changed their tune and are amazed that DD & her friends sat the exam after 18 months.  Think those exercises are just a little bit harder than they thought and possibly it's a bit more difficult than their normal Grade classes.  Ah, the ignorance of youth.........

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