Standardized testing in Alberta was first known to be introduced in 1892 by the government of the Northwest Territories, of which modern day Alberta was originally part of. The government instituted the examinations as it sought to attain greater accountability and ensure its students were well regarded when applying to tertiary institutions. As a result, today the territorial governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut use the Alberta curriculum. There are two types of provincially administered standardized testing in Alberta and the territories: Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) and Diploma Examinations (diplomas). Depending on the course, these tests may be administered in English or French. Alberta, out of all Canadian provinces has the most standardized testing procedure of any province. See also List of Canadian primary and secondary examinations.
The first type of exams, Provincial Achievement Tests, are taken by students in grade 6 and 9, typically in May and June.
The second type of exam, Diploma Examinations, are taken by students enrolled in 30-1 and 30-2 level courses. Results of the diplomas are an important factor in admissions to universities and colleges across Canada as exam results make up 30% of the course grade for 30-level subjects.
Provincial Achievement Tests
In 1983, the ministry instated a "Achievement Testing Program" for grades 3, 6, and 9. These were different than Provincial Achievement Tests because they assessed only one core subject (English language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science) a year.
1892 was the first time that students in, what is today Alberta, took provincial exams. At the time, Alberta was a part of the Northwest Territories and all students in what was then the Northwest Territories took the exams. These exams were taken in Standards V through VIII (grades 9 to 12). It is because of this shared history that today, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut both take some of the Alberta exams.
In 1896, the exams were removed because teachers argued that students were being "monetized" because the school received $15 for each student who passed the exam.
In 1905, exams were reinstated and were now worth 100% of the course mark. These exams were called “Public School Leaving Examinations”. They were taken at the end of Standard V and if the student continued their education there were also taken at the end of Standards VI through VIII.
In 1912, “grades” replaced “standards” and soon after exams taken at the end of grades 10 and 11 were removed.
In 1972, exams were once again removed from the remaining grades and course work was worth 100% of the course mark.
From 1976 onward there was criticism that students were not being challenged and were not prepared for tertiary education. In 1983, the ministry responded to this criticism and final exams, now called "Diploma Exams", were reinstated and were now worth 50% of course mark. The remaining 50% of the course mark was determined by course work.
In October 2009, Alberta Education decided to eliminate the written response (Part A) for Biology 30, Chemistry 30, Pure Mathematics 30, Applied Mathematics 30, Physics 30, and Science 30. This saved the Alberta government 1.7 million dollars in producing the exams and paying teachers to mark them in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. The written response (Part A) remains for Social Studies 30-1 and 30-2 as well as English 30-1 and 30-2. For humanities subjects, Part A written response will take place up to two weeks before Part B multiple choice.
In 2010, eleven students were found to be cheating on the Pure Mathematics 30 exam as the exam had been leaked by a student who was writing the exam abroad and under the supervision of a relative. This prompted Alberta Education to amend its policies regarding administering diploma examinations abroad.
As of September 1, 2018, the written response component to mathematics exams will be reinstated.
The official Ministry of Education purpose of standardized testing is to:
- "Determine if students are learning what they are expected to learn.
- Report to Albertans how well students have achieved provincial standards at given points in their schooling.
- Assist schools, authorities, and the province in monitoring and improving student learning.
- to ensure that province-wide standards of achievement are maintained.
- to report individual and group results."
Grade twelve subjects for which there are diploma exams are:
- English Language Arts 30-1 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- English Language Arts 30-2 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- Social Studies 30-1 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- Social Studies 30-2 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- Mathematics 30-1 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 28 Multiple Choice and 12 Numerical Response
- Mathematics 30-2 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 28 Multiple Choice and 12 Numerical Response
- Biology 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 48 Multiple Choice and 12 Numerical Response
- Chemistry 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 44 Multiple Choice and 16 Numerical Response
- Physics 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 36 Multiple Choice and 14 Numerical Response
- Science 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 39 Multiple Choice and 16 Numerical Response
- Français 30-1 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- French Language Arts 30-1 (Part A Written and Part B Multiple Choice)
- "Speak Out: Alberta's Student Engagement Initiative 3rd Annual Speak Out Conference" (PDF). Alberta Government.
- "Northwest Territories, Nunavut to have input in Alberta's K-12 curriculum redesign". Edmonton Journal. 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2016-11-23.
- "Diploma Examinations in Alberta: A Brief History". www.teachers.ab.ca. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- McEwen, McEwen (1995). "Educational Accountability in Alberta" (PDF). Canadian Journal of Education.
- "Diploma Examinations Program". education.alberta.ca. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "11 students punished for math test cheating". CBC News | Edmonton. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- "Alberta Education wraps up investigation of diploma exam cheating". CTV News | Edmonton. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- "Diploma Exams: Things to Know". Calgary Herald. 2016-06-20. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "Diploma Exam Weighting FAQ". education.alberta.ca. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "Students allotted more time to write Alberta diploma exams". Edmonton Sun. 2017-09-02.
- "Diploma Exams Schedule: November 2017" (PDF).
- "About Grade 12 Diploma Exams". education.alberta.ca. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "About the PATs". education.alberta.ca. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
- "About the Diploma Examinations Program". Alberta Education. Retrieved 27 March 2017.