Mon | Jun 14, 2021

Are you smarter than a sixth grader?

Published:Monday | April 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Students from Jessie Ripoll Primary School in St Andrew, Radiesh Dolam (left), Calese Hare (centre) and Kyana Brown were quite excited and confident that they had aced the first day of the Grade Six Achievement Test examinations last month.- File

Teachers, university students fail to achieve perfect score on GSAT papers

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

In a bid to test the age appropriateness of Jamaica's national Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), The Gleaner asked five teachers and four university students to write the exam.

The cohort of nine sat four of the five papers that make up the annual test that is dreaded by most primary school students and their parents as it determines which high school the student will be placed in for the next five years. The participants sat the integrated science, social studies, mathematics and language arts papers. They were not asked to do the communication task paper.

The cumulative average score of the entire cohort of teachers and university students was 92.

The social studies paper, with a cumulative average score of 88 per cent, was the lowest of the four subject areas. Meanwhile, the best performances were recorded on the language arts paper as it had the highest cumulative average score - 97 per cent.

The cumulative average scores for the science and math papers were identical - 91 per cent.

None of the participants scored full marks on all papers. As a matter of fact, only one person scored 100 per cent on two papers.

The sole basic school teacher in the cohort scored the highest on the exam with an impressive cumulative average score of 99.25. The highest cumulative average score ever recorded in the GSAT is 99.8.

Perfect score

The early childhood educator scored a perfect hundred in social studies and language arts and came close to repeating the feat on the math paper on which she scored 99. The impressive performance was rounded off with a 98 on the integrated science paper.

Patrice Harrison, managing director of - an online academic support service provider - graded the test papers free of cost as she believed the results might be useful in helping to revamp the GSAT.

"Overall, I think you had good results given the composition of the sample because it didn't contain GSAT teachers.

"Most of the incorrect answers related to content that the participants would not deal with on a day-to-day basis, for example, identifying an isosceles triangle solely from a graphic depiction," said Harrison.

Arguing from her interaction with many of the island's GSAT teachers, the benevolent educator advanced that the results would have been considerably higher if a few grade-six teachers were included in the sample size.

Commenting on the results of the GSAT exercise, an educator who requested anonymity questioned the age appropriateness of the grade six exam because the teachers and university students were not able to achieve perfect scores.

"Adults in the working world and university students were still not able to score a hundred per cent cumulatively as one would expect. The inference is clearly that change needs to happen and quickly. There has been an outcry for a number of years but this is a concrete example, albeit a small sample, that something has to change," the educator advanced.

The GSATready managing director also expressed a similar sentiment.

"Your experiment indicates that there needs to be a change. As to nature and extent of the change, that is up to the experts. But we do hope that those experts will recognise, in particular, the two subject disciplines of social studies and communication task, vis-a-vis the appropriateness of content," said Harrison. The Ministry of Education is in the process of reviewing the GSAT.

Earlier this year, the education ministry announced that it would bring in a consultant to conduct a revision of the GSAT at a cost of approximately $10.3 million (US$120,300). The overseas consultant is expected to work with the local team to conduct the review sometime before the third quarter of this year.

At that time, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites said a review of the system was essential because there have been several calls for an evaluation for some time as it was felt that there were several flaws in the secondary school placement test.

GSAT scores

Participants Average Sci SS Math LA

Basic School Teacher 99 98 100 99 100

High School Teacher 90 90 86 86 99

Guidance Counsellor (Primary School) 89 88 89 81 96

Primary School Teacher 94 92 93 91 99

Guidance Counsellor (Primary School) 92 90 89 89 99

Portmore Comm College Engineering 90 93 75 95 98

Student (Associate Degree, second Year)

1st Year UWI Physical Therapy Student (BSc) 94 95 91 96 94

1st Year UTech Business Admin Student (Bsc) 84 77 81 86 91

2nd Year UTech Industrial 92 92 86 94 94

Technology Student (BSc)