Literacy demands of HSC Sciences

A literacy analysis of 2010 HSC Science papers: Physics, Chemistry and Biology, reveals remarkably different literacy demands on students.

The NSW Board of Studies releases each year past HSC papers, sometimes with sample answers, always with a mapping grid. The mapping grid identifies where test items are located in the syllabus. In a similar way I have mapped the 2010 papers against the literacy resources students must draw upon to successfully answer questions.

I have been guided by the imperative verb in the question, for example, describe, explain, justify etc. However, I have also been guided by the genre of the sample response supplied by the BOS. This is instructive as sometimes there is a mismatch between the verb in the question and genre of the response.

I restricted my analysis to 2010 Physics, Chemistry and Biology and the free response questions in the core.

I used the following categories in my analysis:

  • Comprehension

  • Describing

  • Explaining

  • practical

  • Calculation

  • Argument

This analysis showed remarkable differences in the three tests.

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