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Regulators and awarding bodies reassure students after exam errors

Students affected by this summer’s A-level and GCSE exam paper errors are being reassured by awarding organisations and regulators that they won’t be unfairly disadvantaged in this year’s marking and grading process.

There were ten incidents of errors found in live exams across England, one in Northern Ireland and one in Wales, taking the overall total across the UK to 12 – an “unprecedented” figure according to the National Union of Students (NUS).

Even a single affected question could have had a number of negative impacts on candidates. They may lose precious time trying to find the correct answer, and their subsequent failure can increase levels of anxiety, causing them to doubt their own abilities and lose their train of thought.

The qualifications regulators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Ofqual, DfES and CCEA) have assured students that the awarding organisations have taken a variety of measures to address such circumstances.

These include the adjustment of the marking scheme to omit the question concerned for all candidates, or giving all candidates credit for that question, as well as applying a form of statistical analysis that highlights where students performed differently after an error, so that their answer booklets could be scrutinised by senior examiners to see if they merited any additional marks.
In addition, university admissions tutors have been fully informed about these measures.

Speaking on behalf of the regulators, Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey said: “The actions taken have differed according to the circumstances in each case.

“As regulators, we are satisfied that everything that could be done has been done to make sure that, as far as possible, candidates have not been unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged and that there was a level playing field.”

The measures were broadly welcomed by the National Union of Students (NUS). However, Toni Pearce, Vice-President of the NUS, expressed her concerns about affected A-level students not being tracked through the university admissions system.

“Admissions officers will be aware of measures taken but might not be immediately sure which students were affected and be able to take that into account,” warned Pearce.

Regulators and awarding organisations have also stressed that students are able to raise their concerns over a grade after results have been published (on 18 August for AS and A level results, and on 25 August for the GCSE results) by contacting the school or college where they sat the examination.

Apostolos Kostoulas

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