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New Zealand students say word 'trivial' in exam confused them

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High School students in New Zealand who didn’t know what the word “trivial” meant in an exam question have demanded not to be marked down as a result.

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word.

The students were asked to write an essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary.

However, in a statement, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] added: “If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”

It added: “There have been no changes as a consequence of the petition.”

The petition said the word had caused “much confusion” among the students who sat the exam on Wednesday.

“The word which many students were not particularly familiar with meant that students had to write the essay based on their own understanding of the word,” it said.

The petition called on examiners to mark the essay based on the students’ own definition of “trivial”.

In its statement, the NZQA said the question had been produced by experienced staff currently teaching history at that level.

“When there are any unfamiliar words in any material for an exam, a glossary is provided,” it said.

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