Alberta Diploma Exam

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The Alberta Diploma Exams are the provincial tests given to grade 12 students in Alberta, Canada. Results are an important factor in admissions to universities and colleges across Canada as exam results make up fifty percent of the course grade for grade 12 level subjects.

The territorial governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut follow and complete the curriculum of Alberta Education and therefore write Alberta Grade 12 Diploma Examinations. While both territories do have Departments of Education for maintaining schools, they do not deal with curriculum or standardized examinations, thus the reason for using the curriculum and achievement tests of Alberta.

Diploma examinations required to receive an official high school diploma in Alberta are English 30-1 or 30-2 and Social Studies 30-1 or 30-2. This is because only English and Social Studies are required courses at the grade 12 level; only grade 11 Math and Science courses are required for graduation, and grade 11 courses do not have diploma examinations.

Another factor in the introduction of Diploma Exams was to prevent the inflation of marks by biased and over-generous teachers. This puts grade averages significantly lower than the rest of the country. As one of these exams constitutes 50% of the entire course grade, the diploma exams are considered to be an important factor to standardize all high school students in the province.[1]

These diploma examinations are special in the sense that Alberta, as well as the province of Quebec, are the only two provinces in Canada that require high schools students to write provincial wide exams.

Other high school courses are offered in Alberta high schools (such as Math 31-Advanced Mathematics) however, these courses do not require students to write a provincial exam.

Subjects[edit]

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 will save 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.

Grade twelve subjects for which there are diploma exams are:[2]

  • 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)
  • Pure Mathematics 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 33 Multiple Choice and 7 Numerical Response
  • Applied Mathematics 30 (Multiple Choice and Numerical Response only) - 33 Multiple Choice and 7 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
  • Français 30
  • French Language Arts 30

Humanities Diploma Exams[edit]

  • In the humanities subjects, a -1 ending (such as English Language Arts 30-1) represent the academic and most rigorous course offered by Alberta Education while a -2 ending (such as English Language Arts 30-2) represent an alternative course that has been streamlined for students that might find difficulty in that subject.

English Language Arts 30-1[edit]

The English Language Arts 30-1 Diploma Examination consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A: Written Response contributes to 50% of the total English Language Arts 30–1 Diploma Examination mark and consists of two assignments: a Personal Response to Texts Assignment worth 20% of the entire diploma examination mark, and a Critical/Analytical Response to Literary Texts Assignment worth 30%. In the Personal Response to Texts Assignment, the student is given three sources (an excerpt from a novel or a short story, an image, and a poem) and a topic question to go along with it. (The topic question is usually very thematic/philosophical.) With these provided, the student is then asked to answer the topic question, using one to all of the sources as a major argument/foundation, with a piece of prose form. The Critical/Analytical Response to Literary Texts Assignment consists of the same topic from the Personal Response Assignment, but requires a student to formulate a critical essay using any of the texts studied during the English Language Arts 30-1 course. In total, the student has 3 hours to complete Part A of this exam.

The Personal Response to Texts Assignment is graded on the following categories:

  • Ideas and Impressions (10% of the total exam mark) - The student is marked on their exploration of the topic, the quality of their perceptions and reflection, and their use of support in relation to their ideas and impressions.
  • Presentation (10% of the total exam mark) - The student is marked on their creation of a convincing voice and a unifying effect, as well as their stylistic choices and the quality and correctness of their language and expression.

The Critical/Analytical Response to Literary Texts Assignment is graded on the following categories:

  • Thought and Understanding (7.5% of the total exam mark) - The student is graded on the quality of their literary interpretations, as well their ability to link these literary interpretations to their understanding of the topic.
  • Supporting Evidence (7.5% of the total exam mark) - The student is graded on their use of support and evidence from their chosen text(s), which should be employed, developed and synthesized to maintain a valid connection to their ideas.
  • Form and Structure (5% of the total exam mark) - The student is graded on their organization choices in creating a coherent, focused and shaped discussion, as well as their ability to develop and maintain a unifying effect or controlling idea.
  • Matters of Choice (5% of the total exam mark) - The student is graded on how effectively their writing choices enhance communication. The marker will consider the student's diction, use of syntactic structures, and the extent to which they create a convincing voice.
  • Matters of Correctness (5% of the total exam mark) - The student is graded on the correctness of their sentence construction, word usage, grammar and mechanics.

Past topics include:

  • Consider how the desire for independence and the need for security have been reflected and developed in a literary text or texts you have studied. Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator(s) about an individual’s attempt to reconcile the desire to act independently with the need for security.
  • Consider how the nature of self-preservation has been reflected and developed in a literary text or texts you have studied. Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator(s) about the role that self-preservation plays when individuals respond to competing demands.
  • Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator(s) about the role of kindness in an individual's attempt to determine their own destiny.

The remaining 50% of the Diploma Examination mark comes from Part B: Reading and consists of 70 machine-scored questions based on readings from shorter texts and excerpts from extended texts.Part B: Reading is an assessment of students’ ability to read a variety of literary texts closely. Critical reading and thinking skills, understanding of vocabulary, appreciation of tone and literary and rhetorical devices, understanding of the purpose and effect of writers’ choices, and appreciation of human experience and values reflected in literature will be assessed at the level of challenge appropriate for graduating English Language Arts 30–1 students.

English Language Arts 30-2[edit]

The English Language Arts 30-2 Diploma Examination consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A: Written Response, worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark, consists of three assignments: Visual Reflection, Literary Exploration, and Persuasive Writing in Context. These assignments are designed to be less daunting than the Part A of the 30-1 Diploma Examination.

The remaining 50% of the Diploma Examination mark comes from Part B: Reading. Part B: Reading is worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark and consists of 70 machine-scored questions based on short texts and excerpts from extended texts. Part B: Reading is an assessment of students’ ability to read a variety of literary texts closely. Critical reading and thinking skills; understanding of vocabulary; appreciation of tone and literary and rhetorical devices; understanding of the purpose and effect of writers’ choices; and appreciation of human experience and values reflected in literature will be assessed at the level of challenge appropriate for graduating English Language Arts 30–2 student. A major difference from the Part B of the English 30-1 Diploma Examination is the absence of Shakespearean excerpts.

French Language Arts 30-1[edit]

The French Language Arts 30-1 follow the same framework as the English Language Arts 30-1Diploma Examinations with the difference being the entire examination being written in French.

Social Studies 30-1[edit]

The Social Studies 30-1 Diploma Examination consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A: Written Response, worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark, consists of two writing assignments: Source Interpretation and Position Paper. Both assignments in the Part A: Written Response contain source material that is integral to the completion of the tasks. The Source Interpretation Assignment requires students to evaluate and find the ideological perspectives of three sources, whether they be statistical data, a political cartoon, or a photograph. The Position Paper Assignment requires students to formulate a persuasive essay about the extent of the validity of ideological perspectives reflected in one detailed and thorough source.

Past sources used for the position paper include:

  • No country should seek to extend its policy over any other country or people; rather, every country should be left free to pursue its own goals. Every country should be unrestricted, secure, and confident in pursuing these goals, regardless of the country’s size or strength.
  • Rights and freedoms are essential to a democracy; however, there may be times when a temporary suspension of rights and freedoms is necessary to guarantee the preservation of democracy.

Part B: Multiple Choice is worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark and consists of 60 machine-scored questions. Each question is classified according to the knowledge and understanding outcomes of each related issue as well as to the skills and processes outcomes related to either understanding and analysis or evaluation and synthesis.

Social Studies 30-2[edit]

The Social Studies 30-2 Diploma Examination consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A: Written Response, worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark, consists of three writing assignments:Understanding and Evaluating Key Course Concepts,Interpreting Sources and Defending a Position and Exploring an Issue and Defending a Position.

Part B: Multiple Choice is worth 50% of the total diploma examination mark and consists of 60 machine-scored questions. Each question is classified according to the knowledge and understanding outcomes of each related issue as well as to the skills and processes outcomes related to either understanding and analysis or evaluation and synthesis.

Mathematics and Sciences Diploma Exams[edit]

  • As the diploma exams are a cumulative examination of the student's understanding of an entire course progression, e.g. Biology 20 (Grade 11)- Biology 30 (Grade 12), topics covered in the grade 11-level course do appear in the grade 12 diploma examination. However, these concepts take less prominence then grade 12 topics, and thus require a more generalized understanding. An example of this is using the basic concepts of Circular Motion and Gravity covered in Physics 20 or Chemical Bonding and Structures in Chemistry 20.

Pure Mathematics 30[edit]

The new Mathematics 30-1 and 30-2 Diploma Examination consists of 28 multiple choice questions and 12 numeric response questions.

There are three different types of mathematical understanding that will be tested on the Diploma Examination; 1) Conceptual understanding, 2) Procedural understanding, and 3) Problem solving.

Conceptual understanding tests the student's ability beyond recognition of definitions and recall of simple examples. Conceptual questions test the student's ability to understand what mathematical concepts are being used, and their ability to recognize the various meanings and interpretations from different mathematical contexts.

Procedural understanding means that that the students know how to carry out all of the mathematical steps in a question, as well as their ability to do so efficiently.

Problem solving understanding means that the student can solve unique and unfamiliar problems based on what they know. Students should be able to explain the process that they used in their mathematical solution. These result in higher mental activity questions, wherein students must apply and extrapolate their knowledge to solve problems.

The diploma exam is broken into the following units:

- Relations and Functions (55%)

  • Transformations of Functions - Students will explore the various way functions can be transformed on a coordinate plane, including translations, stretches and reflections.
  • Function Operations - Students will learn how to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using functions. This will also include functions in the form f(h(x)).
  • Polynomial Functions - Students will study the general characteristics of polynomial functions and equations, including the factor and remainder theorems.
  • Exponential and Logarithmic Functions - Students will expand their understanding of powers to exponential functions, and will be introduced to logarithms, both equations and functions.
  • Rational and Radical Functions - Students will study the unique characteristics of rational and radical functions, including asymptotes and points of inflection.


- Trigonometry (29%)

  • Trigonometric Functions - Students are introduced to radian measures and the unit circle. They will solve problems by modelling them using trigonometric functions.
  • Trigonometric Equations and Identities - Students will expand their ability to work with trigonometric ratios by learning how to solve equations and prove identities.


- Permutations, Combinations and Binomial Theorem (16%)

  • Students will apply the Fundamental Counting Principal to solve combinatronics problems, and will conclude the unit by studying how combinations are used in binomial expansion.


Calculus concepts are covered in Mathematics 31-a course that does not have an Alberta Diploma Examination ' Examination Specifications and Design

Applied Mathematics 30[edit]

The Applied Mathematics 30 Diploma Examination consists of 33 multiple choice questions and 7 numeric response questions. Units covered in this examination are:

  • Probability
  • Statistics
  • Matrices
  • Finance
  • Sinusoidal Data
  • Patterns and Fractals
  • Vectors
  • Design

Calculus concepts are covered in Mathematics 31-a course that does not have an Alberta Diploma Examination

Science 30[edit]

The Science 30 Diploma Examination consists of a multiple choice and numeric response exam that contains these broad units:

  • Maintaining Health (Biology)
  • Chemistry and the Environment (Chemistry and Ecology)
  • Electromagnetic Energy (Physics)
  • Energy and the Environment (Physics and Ecology)

Physics 30[edit]

The Physics 30 Diploma Examination consists of 36 multiple choice questions and 14 numeric response questions. The broad units covered in this examination are:

  • Momentum and Impulse (15%)

- Students are introduced to the Law of Conservation of Momentum, and will use this to study one and two-dimensional collision systems that require vector analysis.

  • Forces and Fields (30%)

- Students study the properties of various electric and magnetic forces and fields. Specific concepts include methods of charging, Millikan's oil drop experiment, parallel plates and Lenz's laws.

  • Electromagnetic Radiation (30%)

- Students will explain that EMR results from variable, perpendicular electric and magnetic fields. They will describe the electromagnetic spectrum and study phenomena such as reflection and refraction. The unit will conclude with the study of wave-particle duality and emission spectra.

  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics (25%)

- Students will study various atomic theories and famous experiments that have led to our current understanding of matter. They will cover topics from modern physics, including radioactive decay, quarks and nuclear reactions.

Biology 30[edit]

The Biology 30 Diploma Examination consists of 48 multiple choice questions and 12 numeric response questions. The units covered in this examination and their relative weightings are:

  • Nervous System (15%)

- Students will explain how the nervous system controls physiological processes through studying the functional unit of the nervous system, the neuron, as well as the senses. Key concepts include the reflex arc, action potentials, synaptic transmission, the eye and the ear.

  • Endocrine System (10%)

- Students will study how the endocrine system contributes to homeostasis. They will focus on pituitary hormones, as well as hormonal feedback loops that regulate glucose, calcium and metabolic levels.

  • Reproductive Systems (15%)

- Students will explain how human reproduction is regulated by chemical control systems. They will study the male and female reproductive systems, and the hormones that control gamete production and regulate the menstrual cycle.

  • Differentiation and Development (5%)

- Students will explain how cell differentiation and development in the human organism is regulated by a combination of genetic, endocrine and environmental factors. They will trace the development of the embryo from fertilization to implantation and growth.

  • Cell Division (10%)

- Students will describe the processes and stages of mitosis and meiosis. They will study the different mutations that can result from non-disjunction, and will explain how genetic variability is increased through meiosis in synapsis.

  • Genetics (20%)

- Students will come to understand the basic rules and processes associated with the transmission of genetic characteristics. They will learn to perform monohybrid, dihybrid, and X-Linked crosses, and will study patterns of inheritance in pedigrees. Students will also evaluate the effectiveness and viability of various genetic technologies and their societal impact.

  • Molecular Biology (10%)

- Students will explain classical genetics at the molecular level, through studying the processes of DNA replication, transcription, translation and protein synthesis. They will also learn the various effects resulting from DNA mutations and the implications of genetic engineering.

  • Population and Community Dynamics (15%)

- Students will apply the Hardy-Weinberg principle to the study of populations, and will learn how the gene pool can change as a result of a disturbance of equilibrium. They will study various reproductive strategies, factors that influence population density, and primary and secondary succession.

Chemistry 30[edit]

The Chemistry 30 Diploma Examination consists of 44 multiple choice questions and 16 numeric response questions. The broad units covered in this examination are:

  • Thermochemical Changes (22%)

- This unit focuses on energy changes in chemical systems. Students will use calorimetry as a basis for their understanding of heat transfer, and will use Hess' Laws and the principle of Heats of Formation to determine the enthalpy changes for various reactions. They will trace energy transfers in exothermic and endothermic reactions between the products and reactants, and will study the function and effect of catalysts on chemical systems.

  • Electrochemical Changes (30%)

- Students are introduced to the concepts of oxidation and reduction. They will create simple redox tables, and learn to balance and create half-reactions and redox equations. Students will then apply their knowledge to voltaic and electrolytic cells, as well as Faraday's law.

  • Chemical Changes of Organic Compounds (18%)

- Students will learn to name and classify organic compounds according to IUPAC rules for parent chains, branches, and functional groups. The unit concludes with a study of organic reactions, including addition, substitution, elimination, esterification and polymerization.

  • Chemical Equilibrium Focusing on Acid-Base Systems (30%)

- Students will determine equilibrium constants and use Le Chatlier's Principle to predicts shifts in chemical equilibrium systems. They will focus on acid-base systems, studying the principles of Bronsted-Lowry acid-base theory.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/why-albertas-education-system-is-better/
  2. ^ http://education.alberta.ca/media/6446740/04-dip-gib-2013-14_schedules%20significant%20dates-update.pdf