The Knowledge Discussion

Chief Examiner Linda Macrow explains the Knowledge Discussion’s role in LAMDA Exams and what it means for Learners.

All Knowledge Discussion questions will be asked ‘word for word’ as stated on the Learner Examination Report (LER). This is also available in each exam’s syllabus: every subject and grade has a dedicated page titled 'Assessment and Grading Criteria'.

These are the skills that are required for the Learner to meet the standard required for the qualification. Once the Examiner has delivered the question verbatim, they will, if necessary, re-word the question. If a Learner looks confused or is obviously struggling to answer, the Examiner will use different wording. For instance, Grade 3 Acting – AC 4.3: Give a description of the location of the chosen scene. 

Some Learners in the moment of assessment can’t think what ‘location’ means so the Examiner will re-word – for example, “describe to me where the scene is taking place”. Equally, it is not a problem if your Learner asks for the question to be repeated, or they say, “I am sorry, I don’t know what you mean”.

It all comes back to our subject – communications. A polite enquiry will always be responded to positively.  

Subsidiary Questions

If a Learner answers a question and the Examiner feels they could offer more information, a subsidiary question may be asked. The rule for asking a subsidiary question is simple. It must lead from either:

  • Information already given: “You mentioned the red dress. Can you tell me anything else about the dress?” Or, “You said the character was feeling angry. Was he angry all through the scene?”
  • Or by the assessment criteria wording: “You’ve told me that the scene is in the dining room but the question is to describe the location. Are you able to describe the dining room?”

This brings me to a ‘wish’ from Examiners. It is always appreciated when Learners have really prepared well for the knowledge discussion and want to answer questions fully. However, please bear in mind that LAMDA examinations are timed assessments, and the knowledge section is only part of the assessment. The examination time allowance also includes Examiner admin time. For a 20 minute examination, I would expect the Learner to be ‘in the room’ for about 16 minutes. For an Introductory examination which has a 10-minute time allowance, I would expect the Learner to be in the examination room for about 7 minutes.

Therefore, it is really appreciated if teachers can support their Learners in encouraging answers to questions to be succinct and to the point.

As a regulated awarding organisation, LAMDA are not able to provide exemplar answers to questions. But unlike other examinations, we do provide the exact questions which guide teachers in preparing a Learner for the knowledge discussion.

Consider A Question's Wording

Here are two examples:

Speaking of Verse and Prose Grade 5 – AC 5.1: Give a description of the main plot of the book from which the prose selection has been taken. The key here is ‘main plot’ – not the whole story. Often Learners approach this question as a description of the story which, if there are many characters and events, can easily take up most of the knowledge time.

A teacher once called me to clarify what LAMDA meant by ‘plot’. Her own definition was perfect: “So you don’t want the story in full, just the ‘blurb’ from the back cover!” I’m not sure the ‘blurb’ would always get the best marks, but the principle of the explanation is absolutely spot on.

Another example is:

Where the AC requires a summary of information, encourage your Learners to imagine bullet points of key information rather than creating a spoken essay.

Examiners always manage the timings of examinations as efficiently as possible and try to keep to the published timings of examinations. Learners can feel unduly stressed or anxious if kept waiting longer than is necessary to start their examination. Time management is a prime consideration for all Examiners, but it is often the knowledge discussion which challenges this time management.