2023 Practical Assessment Part 1b

  • Dugal McCrow

    I suspect I’ll be getting my lot to do the WDD first as they’ll be spending a lot of time on SDD!


    @Lee Yeah, I did notice that Part B does not have a design for the Input Validation. So if kids want to implement this they will have to design it again!

    I wonder if the actual coding of Input Validation will be needed or even marked as it is not in the design. The coding marks may come for other aspects of the task. As you already got marks for the Input validation design in Part A, you don’t get more marks to simply code it.

    Enrico Vanni

    @derek_s – the point of parallel arrays v records at Higher is that in a practical sense they can be used interchangeably, but one methodology (parallel arrays) doesn’t have the data stored in a single data structure but instead in a collection of notionally linked data items to represent different elements, while the other (records) uses a single data structure with multiple elements, so once again that distinction doesn’t really cut it as an explanation for the use of parallel arrays in this N5 task.

    Those arguing this isn’t a parallel arrays example are trying to create an artifice that the data isn’t linked. As I have illustrated it clearly is and the task directs the candidate to treat it as linked too.

    The easy way to answer if these data items are linked – if you were storing them in a database would you incorporate the attributes in the same entity/table. The answer is yes because the data correlates – miles covered and then an associated cost to recharge the vehicle having covered those miles.

    ETA – good point regarding the validation design, although I think that while it isn’t expressly elaborated in part B (so, as has already been said by Lee, negating the need to split the task) validation is still mentioned at an upper level entry in the Structure Diagram so I reckon the expectation to code it is still there. This does however give rise to the situation the SQA have said they would previously go out of their way to avoid ie. penalising the candidate twice for the same error.

    Dugal McCrow

    Re ‘valid’. From memory, the assignment in the year of the first lockdown had marks for spotting that input validation needed to be coded from the single use of the word ‘valid’ in a structure diagram. Most of my class that year missed it…

    Ronnie Ross

    I found the design of this task to be really tricky to follow, I am glad to see I am not alone in having concerns over this task. Enrico, I totally agree with your point assessment in this course. I am concerned that too many pupils will struggle to understand what they have been asked to do.

    Douglas Brown

    Yeah they use the word valid in structure diagrams – was the same for that wifi signal one ages ago

    Kirsteen Nakau

    On reading the assumptions mine would take that to mean validate and surely they should have assumption that at least one charging station was visited- or are we assuming they may complete a journey without charging?

    Kirsteen Nakau

    On looking at the task I only see one array required based on the output listed in the analysis. Am I completely misunderstanding the task?

    The wording in the structured diagram is poor in the second loop section -instead of reading display next journey stage it should be display cost of journey stage. I think they struggled to fit the text in the box and shortened the wording.

    Calum Gordon

    Hi, just my penny’s-worth on this topic. I’m new to teaching N5 CS in Scotland this year. Parallel arrays aren’t really a programming ‘thing’ IMHO. In GCSE CS they are taught 2-D arrays to do this and Object Classes at A-Level. If the pupils don’t “know” anything about parallel arrays can they not just consider the two arrays to be entirely independent of each other (which they are), just there’s two of them to deal with rather than one?


    Jasmen Flanagan

    I found this assignment much more complex than previous years. Having created a solution which features parallel arrays, I’m concerned that some pupils are either going to veer away from the design and be penalised or be unable to implement the parallel arrays – which is in the Higher specification – and also be penalised.

    I’ve brought this to the attention of my faculty head who is involved with the SQA for his own subject and he advised we should email our concerns to SQA. Does anyone have the email address I would be best sending it to?

    Greg Reid

    Afternoon everyone
    I don’t normally engage in discussions here as SQA has its own official communication channels.  In addition, we have a policy of not commenting on the assignments as they can’t be changed at this stage and it’s vital that every centre’s candidates have the same experience. Given the concerns regarding the ‘parallel or not parallel’ debate I and my colleagues felt it may help to clarify our position.

    The design uses two arrays to store the results of two different calculations.  As parallel arrays store multiple attributes of the same object, the two arrays used are not parallel but disparate data items.  Although the design may be interpreted as parallel arrays by some (and I’m sure some will continue to disagree with me) its also important to note that the two arrays are being used separately throughout the assignment and never together (within a calculation, condition, output statement etc as we would see at Higher).  It is certainly not the intention that these two arrays are parallel and there should be no reason why a well prepared N5 candidate cannot implement two arrays.

    For those concerned about the difficulty of implementing this year’s program, remember that 30% of an assessment should be challenging A marks.  If we find that candidates struggle with the implementation or interpretation of any task this will be dealt with when we finalise the marking instructions (for example allowing alternative solutions) and potentially when the grade boundaries are set. 

    Greg Reid
    SQA Subject Implementation Manager

    Ken Milligan

    I reckon the debate will go on for some time regarding the arrays, however there MUST be, in part B of this task, a design provided for the validation required, as those pupils who have failed to properly create this algorithm in part A will need this to complete the assignment. Surely this is the point of splitting part A from part B? I assume this will be publised by SQA as an errata promptly.

    Lee Murray

    I don’t see how you can argue that they are disparate data items when one array is derived from the contents of the other. They are inextricably linked, the data relates to the same object (Journey Stages) and both arrays have the same dimensions; they are parallel.

    I agree that a good N5 pupil will manage it – and the difficulty is almost irrelevant anyway as it’ll all be normalised in the end – but it shouldn’t contain parallel arrays and it does.

    Grant Campbell

    I get that with marking scheme and grade boundary adjustments things should even themselves out in the end but having an assignment that is significantly more challenging than previous years, subjective as that might be, could also have a demoralising effect on pupils who may leave the practical feeling they haven’t performed well and as such have a mountain to climb on the run up to the written paper, this could be especially true for pupils who are perhaps tracking for a low pass.

    Des Hamilton

    There is a world of difference between candidates understanding a question but not being able to answer it and candidates not understanding a question because of any or all of the presentation, level of language, description and context of the question.

    As a setter and vetter for many years, the essential criteria for any question were that it fell within the course arrangements and there was no confusion caused by how the question was asked.

    It having taken me a couple of readings of the task to understand what I was being asked to do, in my view the task is not going to be accessible to all candidates (I didn’t have this problem with the Higher coursework task). It can’t be the case that only the most able candidates can access a task never mind being able to complete it. It is very wordy and the presentation lacks clarity. Splitting the structure diagram isn’t helpful, particularly when a variable used in the first ‘refinement’ is used on a different page in the second ‘refinement’. On another point, I’m not happy with this main algorithm / refinement approach outside the context of procedures and functions. It doesn’t make sense to me to use this approach when there is no follow through to a modular program.
    There is a small error in the structure diagram on page 5– I think it should say journeyStageCost in the box at the bottom of the page.

    It will not be clear to candidates that two arrays are required. These are parallel arrays in the way they are understood, taught and practised at Higher. The data in one array is related to the data in the second array, related by the index value. My solution has both arrays being traversed in the same loop structure.

    It is unfair to candidates to expect them to come up with a solution using parallel arrays when it is something they won’t have considered or practised before. This is not in the same category as including A grade content within what candidates will have been taught from the accepted understanding of the course Arrangements.

    Part A of the task has the unnecessary condition of having to be submitted, and then no longer available, before Part B is given out. Part B doesn’t give any design for validation so what’s the point of submitting Part A?

    If there is a desire to increase the difficulty level of the Coursework, the complexity shouldn’t be caused by the presentation or divergence from the Arrangements.

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