Before providing some sort of answer to this question (and I writing principally about Higher Level) I think it is important to highlight that the teacher is teaching and the student is studying Geography before they are studying for a geography exam.
This is not to ignore that end purpose is to succeed at the Leaving Certificate exam. However, taking a mechanistic approach, while it can yield benefits, can sometimes backfire. This is because it is impossible to give a 100% foolproof definition of what is an SRP. The student who has a broad and well established competency in the knowledge and skills required at Leaving Certificate geography and who can draw from them as needed, and not just rely on prepared boiler-plate 15 SRPs is more likely to achieve better. Of course the student should have prepared answers but be able to modify them as necessary in response to a particular question.
For the purpose of this post I have ignored what textbooks say is an SRP. Other than that, this is my interpretation and it could be entirely wrong!
Significant Relevant Point
An SRP is a ‘Significant Relevant Point’ that is provided in response to a particular question. As a result of this, what constitutes an SRP depends in part on what the particular question is. You can not assume that what was an SRP one year will be an SRP the next.
The Marking Indicators in 2006 defined an SRP as
a single piece of factual information, to which an examiner will assign a mark weighting as prescribed by the marking scheme.
Some guidance was provided in this document as to how SRPs would be allocated but I think it is fair to say that the marking have evolved since then.
IN 2009 the State Examinations Commissions issued a circular which provided some guidance on what the SEC sees as an SRP.
In the circular, a
“Significant Relevant Point (SRP) is a single piece of factual information, to which an examiner will assign a mark weighting as prescribed in the marking scheme. Each SRP should emerge from the information put forward by the candidate, leading to an overall coherent response to the question. The following are given as examples of information from which SRP’s may be derived:
a statistic and additional relevant information
a geographical term and a brief explanation
a development of a point
additional annotation or information on a diagram / map / chart / illustration etc.
From this, a statistic on its own is not necessarily an SRP (but it could be!). It needs to be accompanied by some information, perhaps information that explains the statistic or offers a comparison to another.
Offering ‘Abrasion’ as a process in waterfall formation is not necessarily be an SRP (but it could be!); it needs to be accompanied by a definition or a contextualised explanation.
An SRP could be the development of a point so some SRPs could be a sentence, others could be a whole paragraph.
Diagrams will sometimes be awarded SRPs and sometimes an allotted mark that is not specifically referred to as an SRP, say, where a question asks for a diagram rather than being left to the student to decide whether to include a diagram in an answer.
In general, a 30 mark question requires 15 SRPs. I always tell my students to have at least 17 SRPs to be comfortable. We sometimes look at sample answers but I tell them to be wary of sample answer textbooks for fear that they will take as gospel that a particular sample answer will automatically get them full marks.
It’s worth keeping an eye on explanations in the Marking Schemes. The 2016 Marking scheme had the following (all emphases are mine);
“Marking schemes published by the State Examinations Commission are not intended to be standalone documents. They are an essential resource for examiners who receive training in the correct interpretation and application of the scheme.”
“The Chief Examiner is the final authority regarding whether or not the marking scheme has been correctly applied to any piece of candidate work.”
“Marking schemes are working documents. While a draft marking scheme is prepared in advance of the examination, the scheme is not finalised until examiners have applied it to candidates’ work and the feedback from all examiners has been collated and considered in light of the full range of responses of candidates, the overall level of difficulty of the examination and the need to maintain consistency in standards from year to year. This published document contains the finalised scheme, as it was applied to all candidates’ work. “
“Future Marking Schemes
Assumptions about future marking schemes on the basis of past schemes should be avoided. While the underlying assessment principles remain the same, the details of the marking of a particular type of question may change in the context of the contribution of that question to the overall examination in a given year. The Chief Examiner in any given year has the responsibility to determine how best to ensure the fair and accurate assessment of candidates’ work and to ensure consistency in the standard of the assessment from year to year. Accordingly, aspects of the structure, detail and application of the marking scheme for a particular examination are subject to change from one year to the next without notice.”
“In considering this marking scheme, the following should be noted:
The detail required in any answer is determined by the context and the manner in which the question is asked and by the number of marks assigned to the answer in the examination paper.
Words, expressions or phrases must be correctly used in context and not contradicted, and where there is evidence of incorrect use or contradiction, the marks may not be awarded.”
The suggestions, examples etc. in the scheme are not exhaustive and alternative valid answers etc. may be acceptable.
For the purpose of marking a Significant Relevant Point (SRP) is a single piece of factual information, to which an examiner will assign a mark weighting as prescribed in the marking scheme (typically 2 marks). As previously advised in Circular S85/09 and in the Sample Marking Indicators available on the SEC website each SRP should emerge from the information put forward by the candidate, leading to an overall coherent response to the question. “
I think this last sentence is important. Unless students are regurgitating the exact same answer word-for-word, no two students will provide the same response to a question. So what looks like an SRP in one response, may not be an SRP in another simply because similar words are present.
So, overall, and SRP is a statement (word, sentence or collection thereof) provided in response to a particular question. The words, sentences or collection of sentences provides a logical and coherent development of the response. It is not just a collection of facts and figures interspersed with introductory sentences (but it could be!), but well thought-out discussion, explanation and/or analysis that answers the question.
When it comes to answering questions, it is important students read the question. Often in the rush of the exam students will hit on the first key word in a question and in a Pavlovian response assume what the rest of the question is about.
I get my students to read the question backwards so they get into the habit of picking out the subjects of each question-statement. These then become the key words around which they plan their answer.