1996 Provincial Exam Results and Timetables

Gordon R. Gore

In an article entitled Provincial Exam Results and Timetables, based on 1995 data, published in Catalyst (Volume 39, Number 3), the performance of students in schools on three major types of timetable used in British Columbia were compared. This article describes aspects of achievement and participation using 1996 data provided by the Ministry of Education.

Definitions: The three main types of timetable organization are 10-month, 2 semester (simply called semester in this report), and Copernican quarter system.

The Ministry defines these as follows:

10-month: a school that writes more than 90% of its total number of provincial examinations in June.
semester: a school that writes more than 35% of its examinations in January.
quarter: a school that writes its exams in November, January, April and June.

Some schools are considered partial: a school that writes more than one subject, and writes between 10% and 35% of their total exams in a session other than June. Another classification used by the Ministry is 3-semester: a school that writes exams in January, June and August. This report does not include partial or 3-semester schools, since its purpose is to compare academic performance as measured by provincial examinations in full year, semester and quarter systems.

It is assumed that the data reported in Ministry Report Number 1274G are sufficiently accurate (in terms of classification by school organization) that one may obtain a meaningful picture of trends in terms of academic performance as measured by provincial examinations in 1996.

1. Achievement

Since English 12 and Mathematics 12 have the largest enrollments, this report will begin with these two subjects. See Table 1 and Table 2.

(a) English 12 Mean Scores Provincial Examinations 1995-1996

Number of Students Writing
10 month: 11,548 Semester: 19,511 Quarter: 3,060

Participation Rates
10 month: 79.0% Semester: 73.3% Quarter: 73.0%

Table 1

ENGLISH 1210 monthSemesterQuarter

(b) Mathematics 12 Mean Scores Provincial Examinations 1995-1996

Number of Students Writing
10 month: 7,951 Semester: 9,320 Quarter: 1,112

Participation Rates
10 month: 51.8% Semester: 33.5% Quarter: 27.4%

Table 2

MATHEMATICS 1210 monthSemesterQuarter

(c) Mean Scores by Timetable Organization in English 12, Mathematics 12, Biology 12,
Chemistry 12, Physics 12, French 12, History 12, Geography 12 and Literature 12

Note that the scale starts at 60%, and the intervals are 1%. This is done so that any trend that might exist can be seen more clearly. Differences in mean score of 1-2% may not be educationally significant.
2. Participation Rates

Definition: The Ministry defines Participation Rate as the number of unique exam writers divided by the September 30 Grade 12 enrollment headcount. We have to assume that Ministry figures for participation rates for all the students in the province in all the schools on a given timetable are reasonably accurate. In some individual semester and quarter schools, there might be considerable variation in participation rates due to students coming and going. Presumably, it would 'average out'.

Chart 2 shows how the participation rates compare for the three major types of timetable organization in English 12, Mathematics 12, Biology 12, Chemistry 12 , Physics 12, French 12, History 12, Geography 12 and Literature 12.

Table 3: % A's and B's Combined English 12

Full YearSemesterQuarter
School Marks51.39%46.04%49.50%
Provincial Exam39.21%34.41%28.16%

Table 4: % A's and B's Combined Mathematics 12

Full YearSemesterQuarter
School Marks56.79%51.38%51.48%
Provincial Exam46.01%33.18%29.04%

Table 5: Difference in %A's Awarded, School-Based vs Provincial Exam Marks

%A's (School-based)%A's (Provincial Exam)Difference in % A's
English 12Full Year17.26%10.70%(6.56%)
Math 12Full Year28.47%24.27%(4.20%)
Biology 12Full Year27.70%22.55%(5.15%)
Chem12Full Year28.96%24.20%(4.76%)
Physics12Full Year33.01%24.50%(8.51%)
French 12Full Year31.61%20.23%(11.38%)
History 12Full Year18.97%15.57%(3.40%)
Geography 12Full Year14.73%8.62%(6.11%)
Literature 12Full Year21.31%13.32%(7.99%)

3. A and B Grades Awarded

One expects that school marks will be different than provincial exam marks, since teachers use a wide variety of criteria to arrive at their grades. However, if there is a disproportionately large difference between school marks and provincial exam marks, then universities might take note of this fact when deciding on admission policy where school-based marks are important.

Table 3 and Table 4 summarize the information regarding A's and B's awarded by schools on the three major timetable systems. Table 3 and Table 4 indicate that the percentage of A's and B's achieved by Copernican school students on provincial examinations is considerably lower than the percentage of A's and B's awarded the same students on school-based marks. (A similar situation exists with Mathematics 12 students on semester.)

Universities may award scholarships to outstanding students based upon their school-based marks. It is therefore worthwhile looking at the percentages of school-based A's awarded by Full year, Semester and Quarter system schools, and comparing this with the percentage of A's these same schools achieve on the common (provincial) examinations. Table 5 summarizes this information.

For all three types of school timetable organizations, the percentage of A's achieved on provincial examinations is less than the percentage of A's awarded based upon school marks. This is not unusual. However, it would appear that Copernican school students might be achieving a disproportionately lower percentage of A's on the common provincial examination in several subjects. See Table 5.

Concluding Comments

According to Ministry data for the entire province, there are now more grade 12 students on semester in British Columbia than there are on full year. There were 21 'full' Copernican schools writing grade 12 examinations in 1996, according to Ministry data.

Many schools in British Columbia have recently changed timetables, or plan to do so. These schools will, no doubt, have to keep track of how their students achieve for several years before and after switching to new timetables, to find out whether the improvement, if any, was due to the timetable change or to other factors.

Often very important timetable decisions appear to be made based mainly on anecdotal evidence.
It is hoped that information provided here on actual performance on common provincial examinations will help schools make decisions about timetables that work best for students. The author leaves detailed interpretation of this data to the reader.


Thank you to the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Examinations and Assessment Branch, for supplying me with Report Number 1274G, Distribution of Letter Grades by Course and School Organization (1996) and other reports. Constructive suggestions regarding earlier drafts of this report by Mr. Keith Meakins, vice principal of Kamloops Secondary School, Dr. George Bluman of UBC's mathematics department, and Dr. Dave Bateson and Professor Reg Wild, both of UBC's Faculty of Education are very much appreciated.

This report was prepared by Gorden R. Gore retired physics and science teacher,
962 Sycamore Drive,Kamloops,B.C.,V2B 6S2. Released Jan.1997