Board apologises over error in A-level question

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The Independent Online

An examination board has apologised after giving thousands of sixth-formers an A-level physics question that was impossible to answer.

The Assessment and Qualifications Authority (AQA) admitted that it had not given candidates enough information to calculate the solution to the problem.

About 3,000 candidates who sat the exam last Wednesday were asked to make a calculation relating to the orbit of a spacecraft around the Moon. They needed to know the distance of the spacecraft from the surface, but were only told the distance from the centre of the planet. The answer was worth just one mark, as one of a three-part question.

George Turnbull, of the AQA, said the board had received a few queries about the question and knew of one student who had been "upset" after puzzling over the question. He said: "It's quite clear there shouldn't be an error in an examination paper and we are sorry for that. If some of the students were unduly affected by that then I am sure schools will write to us about that, and we will take that into consideration."

However, Roger Whitaker, the head of Newman school in Carlisle ­ where the error was spotted ­ said: "Some students were quite distressed and their confidence would have been dealt a blow. Maybe they needed two A grades and a B to go on and study medicine. They would have seen their whole life melting away."

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is investigating claims that A-level papers are being sold for up to £400 on the black market to students before they sit the exams. Hundreds of pupils in London took their pure maths A-level under a cloud of suspicion after a copy of the exam paper, produced by the Edexcel Board, was obtained by a student beforehand. And there are concerns about why pupils at St John Fisher School in Chatham, Kent, sat a GCSE science exam six days before they were due to.