How to interpret test results?

June 28, 2017

Usually at this time, parents and students are a little nervous about the mid year test results, especially when the results are not ideal.


Many parents will be in a rush to look for private tutors or tuition classes to enroll their child in. The question is: Do they know how to interpret the results correctly?


1. Don't just look at the grade / score. 


Parents have to be aware that the test grade need not give an accurate picture of your child's performance. This is simply because the standard of different schools vary. 


Personally I have experienced parents engaging my tuition services because their children failed their school test and paint a very gloomy picture of their children's performance. However after some observation, I realised these students who "failed" are doing as well, if not better than other students from other schools who got a "C" or "B" grade. Sometimes being overly anxious will lower the students' morale unnecessarily. 



2. Interpret the percentile instead. 

Percentile indicates the ranking of the student for a particular subject in that school. So we should compare the percentile of that test together with some historical data of the school's performance to have a more objective prediction of the student's performance for the final exam. Below are two examples of my past students:


Example 1:

This school has a track record of more than 70% of the students scoring A for H2 mathematics at A level. Currently for the mid-year the student got a "S" grade with percentile 46%. Personally, I will interpret as the mid-year paper is challenging, which is why approximately half of the cohort failed. However if the school maintains A level record, being at the 46th percentile means this student still has a chance of scoring A (not guaranteed though). Hence it is unnecessarily to give pressure to the student as if he is "doomed" as this may be counter-productive instead.


Example 2:

This school has a track record of only having approximately 20% of the students scoring A for H2 mathematics at A level. This student has done relatively well, scoring A for his mid-year and his percentile is at 72%. So it is possible that the standard of the mid-year is a little lower than the A level standard. So without referring to the percentile, the student might think that he has mastered the subject and he is already an "A" student. This is dangerous as just looking at the grade, we may be getting the wrong feedback and there is a  chance of the student being complacent.


**Note, the "S" student is actually more capable than that "A" student. The difference is that the standard of the schools are quite far apart.** 



3. Don't be too harsh to the tutors.


As mentioned above, your child need not be faring poorly in the test, so parents should not be too quick to judge on the performance of the private tutors, especially if the tutor is only hired recently.


It is always good to be part of the "team" of helping your child, rather than leaving the entire task to the tutor. (More on this in the future posts). 





To conclude, it is good to have an objective interpretation of the test results and not get overly emotional.


Leave a comment below or email me @ should you need some advice. Do subscribe to my blog as  I will post my various experiences on education issues.


To your child's success

Wei Cang




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