Friday, March 1, 2024

BC’S BARBADOS: 11-Plus story


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Ethelbert Tobias Beresford Haynes frowned. Lord help him but, in 20 years of second-marking examination scripts, he’d never seen a paper in which a student had got every single multiple choice question wrong.
Statistically, it was near impossible. No child could be so stupid. The mythical 12 monkeys pecking at keyboards ought to have typed Shakespeare’s complete works before this happened.
But he’d only flicked through the paper once; perhaps he’d been mistaken. A second look, though, confirmed it: the first marker had scratched bold red Xs over every multiple choice question. Telly’s instincts rebelled: something had to be wrong.
Even more puzzlingly, the student had answered all the non-multiple choice questions correctly! Was this child simultaneously a genius and a moron? Telly flicked to the essay and was stunned: 99 per cent!
He turned on his desk lamp and held the paper under it; and then saw the explanation: the first-marker had marked every answer as wrong because the student had circled three out of every four answers. Marking more than one answer resulted in the question being treated as wrongly answered. That had to be the rule, or children would circle one answer and X another and demand the benefit of the doubt.
Telly looked closer. The answer that had not been circled, in every case, was the correct one! He leaned over the paper and swiftly calculated. And then his eyes lit up. This was exactly why papers were second-marked, he thought, to correct injustices as glaring as this. He picked the paper up and walked briskly to his department head’s office.
“Look at this,” he said, excitedly.
“This is the best 11-Plus examination book I’ve seen in my life. The student scored 99 per cent in his essay and 100 per cent in everything else. It’s an almost perfect paper!”
Mrs Celestinge-Vagner glanced at it. “No,” she said, “it’s a terrible paper. The child has every multiple choice answer wrong! That’s nearly impossible and definitely not a near-perfect paper.”
“But that’s just it,” said Telly.
“The student circled all the wrong answers, leaving the correct one un-circled!”
Mrs Celestinge-Vagner shook her head. “We can’t be sure of that,” she said. “But every answer the student worked out is correct!” said Telly, his voice rising. “This child is a genius!”
Mrs Celestinge-Vagner glared at him.
“Obviously not,” she said. “Or he or she would have understood the clear instructions to mark only one answer!”
Telly wanted to hit her in the head with the exam book.
“The chances of accidentally marking every answer right,” he said, “are as unlikely as marking them all wrong. The child obviously knew the right answer. This child should come first on the island. This child is a future Einstein!”
Mrs Celestinge-Vagner took the paper and waved him away.
“This child,” she said, firmly, “has failed the 11-Plus. Was there anything else?”
Telly looked at her. Then he shrugged his shoulders and walked back to his cubicle. The earlier someone learned life was hard, he told himself, the better.


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