Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday and Friday: From preliminary scores to final scores

The theory exam was held on Sunday, and the lab exam on Tuesday. Once the students are finished with the exams, they become tourists enjoying the hospitality of our Iranian hosts. And the word from Isfahan is that the students are enchanted by the hospitality and the beauty of the host country.

On the other hand, once the students have finished the exams, the heavy work shifts to the coaches and academic leaders. Preliminary scoring of all of the exams is done by the Iranians, and then the coaches of the separate countries review the exams and the scoring seeking to find another point, or half a point or even a tenth of a point that would move a student into a medalist category.

During the day on Thursday, the Iran organizers and their colleagues spent a good part of the day scoring the exams. The students were taken on a camping trip, while the coaches visited an out-of-town village.

Late Thursday night, close to midnight in Iran, our coaches got preliminary scores for our five students. After intense scrutiny of the answer sheets and the preliminary scores, our coaches will prepare for ‘moderation.’ Can they develop a reasonable argument that one student deserves an additional few tenths of a point on the answer to one question. Maybe another student deserves as much as one-half point, or perhaps even a full point or more. Most of Friday will be dedicated to this extended set of negotiations on behalf of the students.

While all of the scores are exposed to the moderation process, our coaches will focus their attention on those US students whose preliminary score is at the boundary between two recognition levels. Can one student be elevated from a very high bronze to a low silver, or from an honorable mention to a bronze, or even from a silver to a gold medal.

In some years of this international competition, the moderation is especially important because of issues surrounding the quality of the preliminary scores. The word from our coaches in Iran, however, is that the Iranian hosts seem to have done an excellent job with the scoring. This will likely mean that the final scores will be very close to the preliminary scores.

Our students and coaches report effusively about the cordiality of the Iranian hosts and populace. The US Team attracts a moderate level of interest from the local population, and our coaches and students consistently describe themselves as being warmly welcomed.