On Alberta Education’s website, you can find Part A of seven past English examinations, ranging in date from 2011 to 2016.
You can see the essay-writing portion of the diploma examinations for English 30-1, and the website also provides samples of actual student essays. The sample essays are classified (with commentary) as “Satisfactory,” “Proficient” or “Excellent.” “Proficient” isn’t the clearest term in this context; it’s between Satisfactory and Excellent.
English 30-1 is the highest level of English study available for Alberta high school students.
I found the entire collection of questions, student essays and commentary on the essays to be interesting in the way that a four-car pile-up is interesting. In other words, what I saw made me question what I saw.
The test itself is poorly designed and the approach to marking is problematic. The exam is a poor measure of English writing ability.
I say this as an outsider to the process. I wrote my exam ages ago and until I looked at these samples on the website, I didn’t care very much at all about how they were graded.
But now I do care, and I have been comparing the exams marked “Satisfactory” with the exams marked “Proficient” and “Excellent.”
I shake my head, unconvinced that those who received higher marks were better at English, and unconvinced that those who received lower marks were worse at it.
I present my objections below. In keeping with the English essay theme of this post, I have three objections.
1. Which is better? An apple or an orange or a watermelon or a papaya?
Someone obviously thought that it would be nicer or more open-minded or fairer to allow for a huge variation in approaches to the essay writing on the diploma exam, but the result is just nutty.
Students are provided with three resources: a poem, an excerpt from a fiction piece and an image. It is the student’s choice as to whether to use one, two or all three of the supplied resources. They are also allowed to write about their own lives or to write about the life of someone else. This story can be real or fictional. The essay assignment refers to a choice of three styles: “personal, creative or analytical” and some students did a combination of these styles.
So you can see that there are a myriad of choices here. It means that student A’s analysis of three provided resources will be compared with student B’s fiction piece about a photo, even though literary analysis is entirely different from story telling.
I am not saying that one is better than the other, but the point of standardized testing is to compare things that are roughly equal.
The fact that each student can choose his preferred resource or his preferred style is a drawback, not a strength. It reduces the effectiveness of the examination’s ability to accurately measure and compare writing ability.
Imagine hundreds of athletes competing for the prize of best athlete where each athlete does his own sport. At the end of the day, how can you compare? Is Kate better at fencing than Steve is at rowing? Is Attila better at hurling the discus than Matilda is at cycling? Is this kumquat better at being a kumquat than that kiwi is at being a kiwi?
Any sensible organizer will know to categorize and judge the sports individually. Different styles of writing are like different sports, and even different resources change the game considerably.
Writing is already a very individual process, making testing and comparison difficult. If you have one hundred people writing about bananas, by the time you get to the end of the second sentence, no two people will have written the exact same thing.
Nevertheless, there are ways to make the test more standard and there are ways to make the test less standard. The test-designers at Alberta Education have obviously opted to increase variation, not reduce it, and I disagree with that choice. (And here I will not even delve into the other part of Part A of the exam. In the second part of Part A, students answer a question about any piece of literature studied in the grade 12 program.)
It would be preferable to test ability by having the students describe a photograph or other clear image. Show students a photograph of a room or an event and ask them to describe it.
See whether their compositions are clear and informative. See whether they have used appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure. See if there is variation of sentence style. See if the spelling and the punctuation are correct. See if the word choice is discerning and see if word usage is skillful.
If you gave me one hundred such descriptions, I could tell you which students showed a greater command of the English language and which students had a weaker command. It would be enough of a test and yet easy to implement and easy to evaluate. As a matter of fact, with such a straightforward and uniform arrangement, many people could evaluate English-writing ability.
Sadly, however, with the current model, the amount of variation built into the test is extreme. The essays are topically and stylistically so different from each other it does not look like they are writing the same exam, and the marking guidelines themselves are a dizzying mess of adjectives which confuse the issue further. The guidelines are not straightforward or sensible because they are supposed to be one-size-fits-all. The guidelines are supposed to be useful no matter what type of essay is produced by the student but that’s not practical. We would never think of using one type of scoring method regardless of sport.
So much for “standardized testing.”
2. Personal revelations tend to skew results
The examination asks students for a “personal response” to the resources which are provided, and one of the optional approaches is called “personal.” This means that it is considered perfectly acceptable for the student to write an essay about his personal life for this diploma examination. Indeed, every year, the question is worded to show the student that he can write about his life: “Support your idea(s) with reference to one or more of the texts presented and to your previous knowledge and/or experience.”
Although personal revelations have their place, personal revelations have their place. In other words, although personal revelations can be appropriate for certain types of writing (letters to family and friends, personal opinion pieces in publications, blogs, autobiographies), personal revelations and opinions are not suited to as many places as people currently believe; one anecdote does not make a general rule. In any case, personal revelation most certainly does not belong in the world of standardized testing.
The evaluator is, after all, human. I know that the evaluators will swear up and down that after marking thousands of papers, they have become entirely immune from the emotional and psychological angles of the students’ writing, and I do believe that there are very professional teachers (these exams are marked, for the most part, by English teachers) who can stay quite focused on the English skills at hand. However, there are far too many evaluators who are going to be influenced when the student confides that he is the long-suffering but incredibly diligent Engine-That-Could, who has made many sacrifices to succeed and become A Better Person so that the World Could Be a Better Place.
And even if it is the case that the evaluator is able to stay focused on evaluating English ability, why have a system which lends itself to these types of shenanigans?
Consider this actual student sample from the January 2016 English 30-1 examination:
I often tried my best throughout following my own personal goals in my life and I was hard on myself when I may have been unable to meet them. Living with PTSD has kept me from choosing to climb up the ladder again, and I always felt as though I wasn’t a good person for doing so. With time and a strong, determined spirit, I was able to better prepare myself for the ladder, and I am ultimately a better person for it. With my education, I often stay up late into the night to finish my work, which is difficult mentally, however, I continue to do so because I enjoy seeing the things I can accomplish and I enjoy learning new things in my life. Some may never reach the fruit at the top and it’s a personal belief that the amount of effort an individual produces is more important than reaching for the lowest you can.
The take-home message is that the student keeps making personal sacrifices for all the right reasons. I guess that’s awesome, but the English is not. I will refrain from commenting on the fruit and ladder imagery, because that’s a reference to the supplied poem, but let’s look at that first sentence: “I often tried my best throughout following my own personal goals in my life and I was hard on myself when I may have been unable to meet them.” The main issue is the word “throughout.” Throughout what? It’s an incorrect use of the word and throws the sentence into grammar purgatory.
Consider the last sentence. It is a comparison sentence, where one thing is more important than something else. Behind door number one is “the amount of effort an individual produces” and that’s more important than what is behind door number two. Are you ready? Behind door number two is “reaching for the lowest you can.” There’s a lack of balance in the sentence, and of course any comparison between something obviously nice and something obviously bad is suspect from the get-go. Here’s my version: “It’s a personal belief that striving to keep one’s house clean is more important than aiming for the stickiest floor on the block.” Another wrinkle is the use of the word “produces” with the noun “amount.” We usually do not speak of “producing” an amount of effort. It is more natural to speak of effort being expended or exerted or spent.
You say I am being critical.
Of course! The entire process of evaluating English writing involves critical scrutiny of the use of English words and phrases. That’s the entire point, and my concern is that evaluators will become distracted from the poor use of English because they are caught up in the drama of this PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder?) student burning the midnight oil, fueled by his noble personal beliefs.
Even now, those who read what I write will view me as excessively harsh — how dare I go after some poor 18-year-old student who works so darn hard and suffers so very much just to Get By In Life?
And that would be my point.
When a student portrays himself as a disadvantaged but earnest underdog, who has the nerve to say, “Hey man, your sentences suck” ?
This is why personal stories should be kept out of the arena most of the time, if not all of the time. Don’t let students play the sympathy card in the guise of having a “personal response to texts.” Don’t let them Accidentally Happen to Reveal that they are creative geniuses. Please — don’t let them. If you’re a genius, prove it to me by whipping up a paragraph that is second to none. Don’t write that all your friends and family and teachers expect you’ll be going to med school Any Day Now (real example from a different sample).
Allowing these personal stories means that many students will choose the story which casts them in the most positive light. The following student presented several versions of the earnest underdog:
Like the girl in the poem, my life is shaped by forces that encourage my actions. When facing adversity these forces encourage me to stay determined and carry out my actions. In the past, I was trying out for the senior basketball team. There were many athletes at the tryout that contained various skill levels. When these girls demonstrated their knowledge of the game and their ability to handle the ball, I became very intimidated. Instead of drawing back and quitting, I became motivated by their intensity. It encouraged me to run faster and jump higher in order to succeed. Being encouraged to put in the extra work not only made me a better athlete, but a better individual. I used the competition as a concept of motivation in my life. When writing tests I would strive to get the highest mark, which led to more studying. When being in musicals I would attempt to have most emotional performance, which led to countless hours of character analysis. All of my work had become enhanced because of the force that encouraged me to succeed. This has shaped me into the dedicated person I am today and I will continue to be in the future. I have many years of the game of life ahead of me and I plan to continue pushing forward to be prosperous.
Are you beginning to see my point?
These students were not born yesterday. They know the game. They know the game all too well. The game is to show that you are incredibly motivated to succeed and that you have a past history of success.
You can tell me that this type of self-promotion has no effect on the teacher, but I would disagree. These two essays both were labelled as “proficient.” The sample section above was praised as being a thoughtful discussion, containing specific examples. Indeed, there were examples.
However, there are problems in the writing and I do not find it to be particularly impressive. The construction of the following sentence is awkward: “I used the competition as a concept of motivation in my life.” A concept of motivation? In the following sentence, an article is missing, and the phrase “when being in musicals” is worse than the conventional “when participating in musicals.” Here is the student’s sentence: “When being in musicals I would attempt to have most emotional performance, which led to countless hours of character analysis.”
If the student is accurately describing her outlook and her experiences, then she may be an impressive person, and very emotional during musicals, but that is not the same thing as being a skilled writer of English. Reading these personal life stories blurs the one into the other.
At the risk of boring you, I will show yet another example where the student presents himself as a driven underdog. Believe it or not, I found these 3 examples in a group of only 6 essays. That’s 50% of the samples from the January 2016 examinations. Three students included personal revelations of their exemplary character. Doesn’t that fact alone make you wonder?
Alright, so the following excerpt is from an actual student essay which was marked “excellent,” but I will put into bold all of the words/phrases that are problematic.
Just as many onlookers of this photo do, I never possessed any extraordinary skills. Those all belonged to my older sister, the prodigy in our family. My older sister excelled in every task a teacher could possibly think to employ; she was a fantastic student, a prolific writer, and considered by many to be among the elite artists of our generation. She began commissions for her acclaimed artwork when she was 12 years old. Naturally, when we both went to our dad, a fabulous musician, with an interest of learning the guitar, I already knew how things were gonna play out. Just like everything else, I was going to live in her shadow. And I was right. For the first couple months, my sister’s ability with the instrument skyrocketed while I remained, with bleeding fingers, still trying to play my first chord. I hated it; not music itself, but my own inadequacy. Music simply spat that stark truth in my face. I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to play anymore; there was no point. For some reason, however, my dad favoured me more than he did my sister. At first, I thought it was because he pitied me, and perhaps this is true. Now I realize he saw potential I couldn’t see in myself. When I was on the verge of quitting, my dad started playing with me. We would jam, just the two of us, for hours on end. I’ll never forget the one Sunday afternoon, we played for three hours straight. The more my fingers hurt, the more I wanted to continue playing. At the end of the session, as my dad was putting his guitar back onto the rack, he said, “Good job, Nate. You’re gonna be better than me if you keep that up.” It was that day that I fell in love with music, and I don’t think that would’ve been possible without my dad. When I lacked the confidence to keep trying, he instilled confidence within me, and caused me to grow in ways I never thought possible.
My whole life has become about making music that inspries people . . .
The student goes on to talk about the fire burning within him and so on and so forth.
The entire personal revelation aspect of these essays seems formulaic and predictable.
Mind you, I don’t fault the students for writing this way, because they want to succeed, and they have been encouraged to craft these little Life Moments pieces for a few years by the time they write the Diploma examination. Ah! Another Little Engine That Could? Take a number.
The problem is the trend in English education which places a premium on self-disclosure and the personal voice. The trend was already underway back in 1985 when I was beginning high school. [Cue background music for Blogger’s Life Moments Story:] I remember that I could not make any headway with my English instructor until I began incorporating reflections from my real life. To talk about myself struck me as cheesy and out of place in an essay discussing a work of literature, but the teacher seemed to think that I had ‘broken through’ once she saw these little personal reflections and the higher grades started to rain down, stupidly.
I was glad but unimpressed.
The personal voice should be reserved for certain applications and most definitely should not be used in a setting where one student’s work is compared with another student’s work. It can too easily cause things to degenerate into one student’s outlook being compared with another student’s outlook, or one student’s character being compared with another student’s character. An evaluator, being human, will tend to go easier on a student who sounds admirable.
3. The diploma examination questions are vague and jargony
The test-designers provide questions which are maddeningly vague and airy-fairy. Here are some examples:
What do these texts suggest to you about the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions? (Jan 2016)
What do these texts suggest to you about the ways in which individuals deal with the uncertainties of the past? (Jan 2015)
What do these texts suggest to you about the impact significant events have on an individual’s ability to determine their own destiny? (Jan 2014)
What do these texts suggest to you about the human need to make a commitment or renounce a course of action? (Jan 2013)
What do these texts suggest to you about the interplay between how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others? (Jan 2012)
What do these texts suggest to you about the conflict between pursuing a personal desire and choosing to conform? (Jan 2011)
These questions are very broad, and sadly, the provided resources do little to focus the questions.
These questions are really not much more than themes, especially when you study them in relation to the provided resources. The provided resources are also airy-fairy. You’re left with a fuzzy question about fuzzy resources.
When I say that the resources are fuzzy, I hope you believe me.
Here’s a typical example:
You have been provided with three texts on pages 1 to 4. In the poem “The Leaving,” the speaker reflects on a night’s labour. In the excerpt from And the Birds Rained Down, Bruno and the narrator discuss the circumstances leading to Gertrude’s arrival at the hotel. The photograph by Stephen Salmieri shows a carnival worker posing in front of a game of chance.
Did you catch that? One of the “texts” is a photograph!
The entire point of the word “text” is to differentiate letters and words from images. If you are a graphic designer or a magazine or newspaper editor, one of the most basic distinctions is between writing and graphics or images.
You would think that what I state is really obvious, but this is what happens with those who consider themselves progressive. While you and I have our backs turned, they change the definition of an English word and act as if they’ve done something wonderful, as if they’ve gone “ping” with their magical word wand. They congratulate themselves on their modern and broad-minded approach. While you and I naively think that the word “automobile” refers to a vehicle with four wheels, they know that only the laypeople are Narrow Like That. They know better. They know that a bicycle is also a “automobile.”
It’s not right. The most basic component of successful communication is consensus about what the words mean. If they teach students that the word “text” can include a photograph or a painting or a drawing which contains no letters, then they are failing in their duty to educate their students. They are miseducating them.
In this case, the problem is amplified, because here the question-makers are pretending that a photograph can speak volumes about abstract human questions.
A picture may be “worth a thousand words,” but let’s be sensible — it is NOT a thousand words.
The student is told that the photo (“the text”) suggests something to the student above and beyond the obvious. A photo of a carnival worker standing in front of a ball-in-basket game suggests something about “the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions.”
Nobody in his right mind who looks at a photo of a carnival man standing at his booth is going to start thinking about “the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions”!
Most people will look at the photo, say, hmm, a photo of a carnival guy. It looks like it’s an old-fashioned photo. The guy is obviously posing.
Then they move along.
If they look at it longer, they might think of the times they’ve been to the carnival, and what happened there. Others might try to decide if the man looks handsome or not, and what his mood is. Some will read the writing on the sign.
That’s about it.
Photographs are for quick digestion. You look at them and you absorb the main idea within seconds. Sure, some photos are stunning, and you take your time, looking at the overall image and then lingering to enjoy the details.
But still, they are not essays. They are not books or short stories. You could call them “poetic” but they aren’t poems either.
They can be shocking and they can elicit emotion and they can educate you about a reality, but they do not delve into abstract concepts by means of words. Their power is their immediacy, not their depth and exploration of topics at length.
(And as an aside, it can be said that as our society becomes more enamored of the image than the printed word, our analysis of life’s deeper themes becomes less frequent. We want the quick story. We want the story in picture form. Even a movie is too long for us nowadays; we like the 3-second gif and the witty meme.)
In any case, it is unrealistic and misleading to tell students that a photograph is going to enlighten anybody about the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions. It’s just too much, and I don’t like the game of Let’s Pretend.
It’s not right to burden one photograph with essay-type responsibilities. Let it be what it is. Let it be a photograph. Judge it and evaluate it and enjoy it the way photographs are meant to be. Consider the composition, the colours, the subject, the mood and the lighting. Don’t say that it’s suggesting something about the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions. It’s not.
Charlotte: This photo reminds me of the time the family entered the pig in the fair.
Wilbur: This photo reminds me of the time I was entered into the fair.
ENGLISH DIPLOMA EXAMINATION WORLD:
Charlotte: This photo suggests that an individual’s actions can be inhibited by various forces, including the likelihood of losing at a game of chance.
Wilbur: This photo suggests that financial considerations can function as an encouraging force, enticing individuals to take chances in life.
In sum, the questions are painfully vague and consulting the provided resources (poem, excerpt from fiction and image) does little to illuminate the question. If I were to provide an analogy, I’d say that the students are directed to go fishing in the dark with a dimly-lit flashlight and a dollar-store fishing net. Get ready, set, go!
Reading the question, one is given the impression that a person could gain valuable insight into deeper human topics by reviewing the resources. One is given the impression that these “texts” will be Suggesting All Manner of Things About Life, but the sad truth is that the connection between the “texts” and the essay topic is usually sketchy.
However, like abstract art, the game is all about acting as if you are capable of seeing the Deeper Meanings and All the Connections.
In other words, the game is about bullshitting.
And the students catch on pretty quickly. Before you know it, one student is writing that the white garment worn by the man is a way for the photographer to suggest that the game is an honest one. (Real example.)
Before you know it, another student is suggesting that the fish eyes in the canal symbolize persistence in the face of failure. (Real example — it was something like that.)
Before you know it, half the students are just saying the texts say whatever they need the texts to say and the other half have decided that they are going to steer clear of writing English essays for the rest of their lives.
Can you blame them?
It’s a contagious case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
The teacher says to the students, “Don’t you think this garment is fine?” The students look at the teacher’s empty hands and say, “Yes, it is mighty fine and the luxurious fabric catches the light.” The teacher says, “Indeed, it glimmers like the dawn, and symbolizes the brightness of your upcoming score on the upcoming diploma exam.”
The “texts” which form part of the exam are quickly scanned by the students, who mine them for the odd phrase or idea which might possibly, arguably, tie into the question’s abstract concepts. The diploma exam is timed, after all, and students have 45 to 60 minutes to read the resources, draft an outline and prepare an essay.
That is not the best approach to literature. Quickly reading a poem and an excerpt from a story in order to answer an essay question on an examination does a disservice to the literature.
Poems aren’t meant to be read quickly. Fiction is also meant to be savoured. A careful and unhasty reading of the works has the best likelihood of uncovering the intention of the author and is the proper approach to any analysis beyond the superficial (such as an examination of obvious literary devices). I am not in favour of suspending a measured and thoughtful approach in the context of an examination.
It is therefore hardly surprising that in my review of the student’s essays, analysis of the provided texts was scanty and token, and when a student did venture into the provided texts, the discussion of the texts was either very basic or else — at the other extreme — fanciful and implausible.
I did not encounter any insights into the provided “texts” that were compelling.
Nevertheless, I do not fault the students. I fault the examination.
In order to properly explore any work of literature, it is advisable to read it for its own sake, without asking it to reveal an answer to a predetermined question. Take your time, move at a pace which is comfortable to you and suited to the work. See what the author or the poet has to say, and if the work is terrible, think no further about it. (Either that or write a blog post about it.) If the work has merit, consider what the author is saying about life, and how he chose to say what he said.
The English 30-1 diploma examination already has a comprehension section, where students demonstrate their understanding of a previously-unseen piece of literature. That is enough. Do not ask them to incorporate a new piece of literature into an essay.
In the same way that you wouldn’t ask a chef to make you an Irish stew in forty-five minutes, don’t ask a student to analyze a poem or an excerpt from a story in that span. Proper analysis takes time.
Furthermore, the essay portion of the English 30-1 test should be testing on English writing ability, and in the same way that personal essays tend to push evaluators in the direction of evaluating personality, there is a problem with asking students to analyze or even comment on works of literature and life’s more complex issues. The danger is that students who are more logical and analytic will appear to be better writers than those who are less logical and analytic.
Now it is true that logical arguments and good writing are often close companions, but I’d argue that it is better to remove the argument aspect as much as possible when trying to evaluate writing.
Otherwise, the teacher could be distracted by the fact that there is only scanty support for a given proposition, or impressed by the persuasiveness of a novel argument. Will a paragraph promoting candy floss and caramel corn be judged in the same light as a paragraph promoting kale and parsnips? Maybe not. Maybe the teacher will deduct marks for flawed logic despite flawless sentences.
In my opinion, persuasiveness and logic are important, but they should not play too large a role in an examination on English.
Even more dangerous is that it is frequently the case that a teacher will be biased towards a student who says things about life that sound more pleasing. Students learn the hard way that taking a position which is unpopular with the instructor is a quick route to a lower grade. Students learn quickly to praise the fashionable idea of the day. They refrain from saying what they really think. Why run the risk?
(And here I would venture to say that the constant grading of viewpoints throughout the educational system has a stunting effect, which discourages independent thought. Students emerge from the system learning to gravitate towards whatever answer is ‘right’ according to the person in charge. Students become accustomed to moving with the herd, and those who challenge the prevailing viewpoint are few and far between.)
For these reasons, it’s safer to separate the two aspects. There is no need to review a student’s outlook on life’s bigger issues in order to assess his writing skill.
As I said, if a student is asked to provide a description of a person or a room or something along those lines, you will see quite clearly whether the student is able to make good use of the words in the English toolbox, in the same way that a good carpenter can build a better chair than an inept carpenter, and in the same way that a good cook can make a better breakfast than an inept cook can. You don’t need to make a test Big and Deep and Fancy in order for it to separate the men from the boys.
I’m going with the biblical theme that someone who is faithful in small things will be faithful in big. Someone who can successfully answer a straightforward question is the best person to write a novel or an encyclopedia. Someone who calls a photograph a “text” is not.
The point is that the examination question need not be contorted and self-conscious. The examination question needn’t refer to unfamiliar “texts” which supposedly suggest things about abstract topics. Exile such questions. Send the person who is designing such questions on an indefinite time out.
Stop the game of Let’s Pretend.
If you want to evaluate a student’s ability to write, make the question plain and no-nonsense. A convoluted and jargony abstract question encourages students to invent connections where they don’t see them in order to appear insightful and it encourages students to make assumptions about the literature which are not supportable. Having been told that certain resources suggest Big Things, the students pretend that those resources are suggesting Big Things.
At the start of the examination, they had never deliberated upon “the interplay between how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others” and they had never seen such-and-such poem. But forty-five minutes later, they have written with confidence (“confidence” is something the evaluators purport to evaluate, believe it or not) that an unfamiliar poem suggests quite a bit about these abstract concepts and that this is supported by their “previous knowledge and/or experiences” blah blah blah.
It’s just all such a stretch, and it is usually a counterfeit of genuine analysis, evaluation of literature and exploration of abstract concepts.
If you really must ask questions about new literature, keep them down-to-earth. (I find it telling and disturbing that the word “straightforward” is a word with negative connotations in the grading system of the diploma examinations; straightforwardness is a sign of merely “satisfactory” writing.) Ask the student whether a given character is being presented as a hero or a villain, and how this is being accomplished. Ask the student about the mood that is being created in the piece, and how this is being accomplished.
If you want something creative, ask the students to continue the short story from where it left off. I enjoyed the work of the January 2016 student who used the photograph as the launching point.
There are ways for students to demonstrate their ability to write which do not require fanciful pseudo-psychological theories about life. Such topics are best explored when they are personally chosen (not imposed) and they are best explored when the timer is not running.
The current recipe (Vague “Deeper Meaning” Question + Unfamiliar “Texts” + Time-Pressured Student) does not yield a desirable result. It’s a recipe for Fake and Bake, and that’s a shame.
I could go on, but if you agree with me by now, you’ll join me in hoping that those charged with the responsibility of designing the tests will overhaul the examinations. If you don’t agree with me by now, there is probably nothing I could say to convince you.
How’s that for a concluding paragraph?
I think it’s “Excellent.”