The May 2014 Visual Arts subject report is available on the OCC.

It contains a wealth of useful information. I’ve selected four bits that it may be useful to highlight.


Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Everything in the report reflects my own experiences as an examiner in the last examination session.

This Blog post is primarily about the visual arts course that will be finishing next year rather than the course that has just started.

  1. 1,000-word commentary.

The 1,000-word written commentary is an alternative to the interview but having read through many I have to admit that in many cases it was more like an elongated version of the candidate statement.

The commentary is what a candidate would say if he/she was being interviewed and should be a response therefore to the kind of questions that would have been answered in an interview.

For option A the commentary will be about the studio work and for option B it will be about the investigation workbook.

Occasionally a student also talked (in both video and commentary) about work that they had created during the course but was not  uploaded for assessment. Students should only discuss work that has been submitted for assessment.

2. Copying

There were many examples of images copied from the Internet: this can be a quick and easy way to generate artwork but it’s also plagiarism, and if students do this they obviously run the risk of not being awarded a Diploma.

Apart from that , they are failing to become involved in the developmental process: as the report says, “copying in this context removes the need for an engagement that is honest and born of a worthwhile candidate experience of the subject matter”.

One way of making sure that your students are not uploading plagiarized images is to expect/require/demand evidence of a developmental process.

If as a teacher you are able to see, say, 10 annotated workbook pages that show mistakes, process, evolution, change, trial and error, refinement etc plus a few examples of starting points or midway points (etc) art that are not in the book, then the work is far more likely to be the student’s.

The subject report says “Teachers have a role in this context to ensure that submitted files are not simply copies of images found online by emphasizing the need for, and requiring evidence of, a developmental process”.

  1. Efffective teaching

Examiners can see the entire visual arts upload of whole schools.

So for example I’ll see the studio upload of 12 candidates from school A and the studio upload of 16 students from school B. Both schools could be in the same city and have similar students and resources,

But the average mark that I’m giving to the exhibition files of school A is 10/20, while on average the mark for the files from school B is 17.

This suggests that although the motivation and engagement of students in school A is as high as that of students in school B they are being ineffectively taught. They could be doing a lot better with the teacher from school B

This suggests that the range, suitability and overall quality of the work of a whole school was in some cases determined almost entirely on how well the course requirements had been understood by teachers and candidates and that occasionally the candidates’ results have been hindered mainly by a lack of understanding of the course requirements and assessment criteria”.

  1. Pop Art vs the Rest of the World

As you know, humans have been making art for thousands of years.

It may be natural and predictable that our students are not interested in Medieval or Renaissance art, or in the objects and artefacts decorated by the Vikings or the Aztecs, or in the art of ancient China etc

It may be that in many cases teachers and students both prefer to explore contemporary/recent art, and of course that’s fine: in many ways contemporary and recent art has an immediacy and an obvious relevance that art from a few hundred years ago may not have.

However, as the report suggests, it might also benefit students to look “at a longer perspective when considering historical awareness”.

There is so much art ‘out there’ – across times and cultures – that deals with truth, honesty and the human condition, and asks questions about humanity, that it sometimes seem a waste of an opportunity for hundreds of students every examination session, repetitively and predictably, to refer almost exclusively to Andrew Warhola 1928-1987  as their primary source of inspiration.

Images from


 “The Jewish Bride (DutchHet Joodse bruidje) is a painting by Rembrandt, painted around 1667. The painting gained its current name in the early 19th century, when an Amsterdam art collector identified the subject as that of a Jewish father bestowing a necklace upon his daughter on her wedding day. This interpretation is no longer accepted, and the identity of the couple is uncertain. The ambiguity is heightened by the lack of anecdotal context, leaving only the central universal theme, that of a couple joined in love”.,_genaamd_’Het_Joodse_bruidje’_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg