New Zealand Scholarship Drama 2018 Changes to the External Assessment

Results from consultation on proposed changes to the examination

Proposed changes to the requirements of two of the three sections of the New Zealand Scholarship Drama examination were consulted on at the start of Term 2, 2017.

A total of 42 responses were received from the secondary and tertiary sectors, and from one examination centre manager. The number of secondary school respondents represented over one third of the schools that submitted work for Scholarship Drama candidates in 2016.

The panel carefully considered all responses and additional comments and would like to thank respondents for their feedback and suggestions.

This report outlines the proposed changes, considerations, and outcomes to be implemented for Scholarship Drama in 2018.

NOTE: The review outcomes outlined below DO NOT alter the requirements for 2017.

Changes for 2018

After consultation with the sector the following changes will be implemented in 2018:

Part 1: Text-based performance

Proposal: To provide a broad range of appropriate excerpts for candidates to choose from for the text-based performance in Part 1, rather than candidates selecting an excerpt from any text of the prescribed playwrights, as at present.


  • The purpose of the proposed change was to improve candidate access to appropriate texts to enable candidates to present the richest possible evidence, and to allow for better comparability due to more appropriate choices being made by candidates.
  • The panel noted the strong agreement (72%) with supplying a list of excerpts, and even stronger agreement (80%) that the change would provide a fairer basis for comparing candidate performance.
  • However, many respondents expressed caution that the text list must be sufficiently wide to include gender-appropriate texts, and a wide range of styles and ethnicities so candidates can personally connect with the text.
  • The suggested number of excerpts ranged from 5 to 280 with requests for frequent or annual updates.
  • After considering this feedback, the panel accepted that developing and maintaining a list of appropriate excerpts is impractical due to the diverse expectations; and that any choices made will be contentious.
  • The panel recommended an alternative approach to allow candidates to choose their own excerpts from any critically acclaimed playwright.
  • To support this, the current Level 3 list of prescribed playwrights will be retained as a starting point for candidate choice.

Outcome: Candidates may choose their own excerpt from a text from any critically acclaimed playwright, rather than only those from the prescribed playwright list for AS91514.

Part 2: Self-devised performance

Proposal: To widen candidate choice to show the influence of ANY established theorist, theatre practitioner, or recognised theatre company; to require the self-devised performance to differ from that in Part1, the text-based performance; and to change the oral justification/ response to a pre-prepared rationale for the work.


  • The panel noted the very strong agreement (88%) for the proposed change; that it would allow for greater exploration of NZ and non-European practice; and also allow for stronger links by candidates to established theorist, practitioners and/or theatre companies
  • Some respondents requested a list of suitable companies or practitioners, however the panel’s recommendation was to keep this open to allow flexibility and choice for candidates. 

Outcome: Candidates may choose to show the influence of ANY established theorist, theatre practitioner, or recognised theatre company.

‘Established’ = widely published or critically acclaimed.

The self-devised performance must be significantly different to the selection made in Part 1.

The candidate will be required to deliver a pre-prepared rationale for their work.

Part 3: Impromptu performance

No change was proposed to Part 3, the impromptu performance.


  • Several respondents questioned the value or validity of the impromptu section, stating that this skill was no longer assessed within Level 3 achievement standards. Some mentioned that candidates find this part stressful.
  • The New Zealand Scholarship Performance Standard is derived from the Arts learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum, Drama achievement objectives up to and including Level 8. It is not confined by the scope of assessment in the Level 3 achievement standards.
  • The examination is framed so that markers can identify and rank candidates according to their ability to integrate drama techniques into performances; critically analyse drama processes; and apply drama theory to their performances.  It is therefore vital that the examination tests candidates and differentiates between the top performing candidates.
  • The New Zealand Scholarship Performance Standard expects candidates to be able to create, and to demonstrate strong conviction and knowledge and application of drama processes and elements of drama. These skills are demonstrable through all parts of the examination, including the impromptu task.
  • Improvisation is a key tool used to explore what is effective in any theatre-making context (role, narrative or technique). Also, the ability to produce fresh, convincing, thoughtful material under pressure is a key to successful, effective, and convincing theatre work.
  • Currently candidates are asked to justify their impromptu performance. The panel recommended that this be widened to allow for more ‘analysis’ if the candidate wished to include it.

Outcome: The oral justification to the impromptu performance may include analytical comments such as an explanation of, or reflection on, their intentions as well as their performance. For example, where a candidate struggled to apply an element, they might explain how they explored and found other solutions; or they might compare their intentions with what actually happened in their performance, and explain the choices they made.

Format of the examination

Some respondents made comparisons between Scholarship in other arts subjects, particularly Dance. Some requested that candidates be able to submit recorded work in portfolios and/or written justifications.

The panel considered these suggestions, but recommended the current format be confirmed, that is, a prepared performance, a self-devised performance and an impromptu task, each with introductions or oral justifications to camera.

Their reasoning was that this format offers a wide range of opportunities for candidates to show their skills, knowledge, and analytical abilities. It aligns with the Performance Standard and clearly distinguishes between levels of achievement, allowing for self-motivated and independent study, and for the practical application of skills and understanding expected at this level.


NOTE: The review outcomes outlined above will affect the requirements of the 2018 examination. They DO NOT alter the requirements for 2017.

All changes will be detailed in the 2018 Assessment Specifications to be published in December 2017.

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