New Zealand high school students have demanded examiners ignore that they don’t know what the word “trivial” means, after it appeared in a final-year exam and left many confused.
Some students who took the year 13 history exam claimed the “unfamiliar word” was too hard, and the exam should now be marked according to each student’s different understanding and interpretation of “trivial”.
The exam asked for students to write an essay on whether they agreed with a quote from Julius Caesar which reads: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes”.
An online petition claims the word trivial “caused much confusion” in the Wednesday exam and many students “were not particularly familiar with” the word.
More than 2,500 people have signed the petition, calling on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] to “recognise the true potential of the students and mark the essay based on the student’s own content and understanding of the event, many of which were different to what the word actually means.”
Year 13 student Logan Stadnyk who took the exam told local media that at least half of his classmates thought trivial meant “significant”.
“Trivial isn’t a word that you hear too frequently, especially not if you’re in Year 13,” Stadnyk said.
Kristine Kilkelly, NZQA deputy chief executive assessment officer, said the exam was written by experienced history teachers who had judged it suitable for year 13 students.
“The language used in the question, such as the word ‘trivial’, was expected to be within the range of vocabulary for a NCEA Level 3 History student,” Kilkelly said.
“If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”
“There have been no changes as a consequence of the petition.”
According to NZQA 6,300 students were enrolled to sit the exam and the authority had received 13 complaints regarding it.