We have now had FIVE full years of the ‘new’ visual arts course. It was started in 2014, with first examinations in 2016, so for those of us who have been riding this particular horse from the start, the annual hurdles (aka annual examination sessions) should be getting less daunting and more familiar. Even if the first time round your students’ results were not what you expected, hopefully by now it’s getting easier.

I’ve devoted recent blogs to aspects of the exhibition, so now I’d like to turn to the Process Portfolio after five years.

In assessment terms of course it’s an important component, worth 40% of the final mark. But what do Process Portfolio examiners say about what they are seeing?

Here are four PP points to consider:



Ideally, the process portfolio is not just a series of unrelated mini accounts of art-making, with a different activity every few pages. Admittedly this will (probably) show that students have covered enough forms in the art-making forms table, but a better approach sees the process portfolio as a whole, with fewer works that demonstrate more depth and detail and still covers the required number of forms. This would allow time and space to focus on how student ideas start and evolve with evidence of relevant experiments, processes, refinements and reflections. Critical investigation should also link to conceptual and/or material concerns and may also help resolve art-making or creative problems.


Examiners – like most people – don’t like wasting time, and are occasionally exasperated when confronted with 20 pages with a mass (mess?) of seemingly unrelated photos, notes, sketches, drawings etc. Help the examiner make sense of the submitted document. One way to do this is with headings and sub-headings: these can help examiners navigate the content and identify where, for example, the student addresses a particular criterion.

Also, its not a diary. Its an assessment instrument…


We all probably have a favourite technique – working with clay, photography or printmaking etc – and sometimes this favourite process dominates the process portfolio, with only brief looks at and experiments with a second and/or third art form. Although understandable, its important that students still to show balance: they should to try to show evidence of experimenting with the other art-forms to the same degree and level as the ‘favourite’ technique. Encourage your students to cover each of their art-making forms with consistency in depth and detail. They need to invest sufficient time to develop skills in each of the media they explore.


The PP presentation criterion asks, “to what extent does the portfolio ensure that information is conveyed clearly and coherently in a visually appropriate and legible manner, supported by the consistent use of appropriate subject-specific language?”

There is no mention of colourful swirls, loops, elaborate circles, dots and/or stylised (and sometimes illegible) fonts. Adding decoration will not help the overall mark, unless it is somehow relevant, for example – you are exploring the decorative techniques of Gustave Klimt. If students are using handwriting, examiners want it to be easy to read. If text is computer generated, use a plain font and keep text colour vs background also easy to read. Some students write in spirals or in various directions – again, this does not assist ease of access or legibility!

And don’t forget, a landscape format will better fill the screen that the examiner is looking at!


***And the new DP visual arts course? You will start teaching it in August/September 2022.