Exam boards apologise for errors in multiple GCSE and A-level papers

OCR - one of the biggest exam boards - has had to apologise three times in a fortnight for mistakes published in its exam papers

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 14 June 2017 12:16 BST
Some 20,000 students sat each science paper affected this week
Some 20,000 students sat each science paper affected this week

Two major exam boards have apologised for including mistakes in their separate science A-level exam papers.

The AQA board was criticised for including an “unanswerable” question in its Chemistry paper, and OCR admitted to a mistake in its Biology A-level paper sat by 19,000 students on Monday.

Biology candidates were asked to calculate a standard deviation, but were not provided with the formula needed to do so, as is required by the exam syllabus.

It is understood that the error in the Chemistry paper – taken by another 20,000 students - was of a similar nature.

This is the third time in two weeks that OCR has been forced to issue an apology over mistakes spotted by students and teachers in the exam hall.

OCR apologised, and said it would address any impact during marking and grading.

Some students sitting the AQA Chemistry paper this week were told by invigilators to leave out the incorrect question on the paper.

Complaining on social media, however, many said they were left unsure of what to do, or were only notified once the exam was already underway.

AQA said schools had been notified in advance of the error, which concerned a two-mark question.

The question will be discounted during marking, it said, which means all students will be credited the two marks regardless of their answer.

An spokesperson for the exams regulator, Ofqual, said: “We expect all papers to be error-free.

“When errors are not identified before the exam, we expect the exam boards to do everything they can to minimise the impact on students.

“That is our immediate priority, and we are monitoring their actions closely. Once results are issued, we will look carefully at the reasons for the errors that occurred and take action if appropriate.”

The watchdog was unable to confirm whether there had been a perceived rise in exam paper errors for candidates sitting the tests this year.

Just over two weeks ago, OCR issued an apology for an error published in its English literature GCSE paper.

The question mistakenly implied the character Tybalt, from the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, was from the Montague family, when in fact he is a Capulet.

And last week the same board apologised for a poorly-worded A-level psychology question, which asked students to “calculate the mean percentage of words”.

Students affected by the board’s latest blunder started up a petition calling for grade boundaries to be lowered.

OCR said in a statement: “For one question on OCR’s A-Level Biology paper H420/01 (Question 20a, worth 3 marks out of a total of 100), the formula for standard deviation was not provided.

“Some of OCR’s guidance to schools and teachers about the specification indicated that candidates would be provided with this. OCR apologises and will address any impact of this during marking and grading.”

An AQA spokesperson said: “This shouldn't have happened and we are sorry it did.

”Each of our exam papers goes through a lot of checks, but unfortunately errors can very occasionally slip through.

“When they do, we always make sure that students don't lose out and we’ve got a team looking at this right now to find out how it happened.”

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