Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 11:32 UK

Exam papers had answers on back

By Angela Harrison
BBC News education reporter

exam candidate
Thousands might be affected

Thousands of teenagers are facing uncertainty over their exams after a GCSE music paper was found to have some of the answers on the back.

The paper - taken across England - involved pupils listening to pieces of music and then identifying composers and styles of music.

The OCR exam board (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations) said pupils would not have to re-sit the exam.

It said the paper in question was one of four taken by GCSE music students.

The relevant question would account for no more than 5% of the marks on that paper, the board added.

In a statement OCR said: "OCR regrets that a printing error may have affected a small number of marks on the GCSE music question paper."

This puts a shadow over pupils' exams and adds to the anxiety
Chris Keates,
NASUWT teachers' union

It said all exam papers had a copyright statement dealing with source material on the back page and that this particular one had more detail than usual in a music paper.

The BBC news website has seen a copy of the paper. The copyright acknowledgements are linked clearly to numbered questions.


exam answers

exam paper question 4

exam paper question 3

The exam board said it had received "a handful of calls" from schools querying the situation since the exam was taken on Friday.

But it added: "It is unlikely that any of the 12,000 students sitting the examination would have recognised the value of the information in the copyright statement and subsequently used it.

"However, OCR is putting procedures in place to identify the effect, if any, this had on candidates and to make allowances accordingly to ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged. There will be no need for candidates to retake this component."

The exam board has not said exactly what action it will take but admitted "thousands of pupils" could be affected.

Last year OCR's music GCSE was taken by 12,637 candidates - roughly a fifth of the total number of students taking music GCSE (61,249).

Students in Herefordshire and Worcestershire highlighted the problem.

Alex, 16, from Hereford, told the BBC News website he spotted the answers on the back about halfway through the exam.

I would love a re-sit as I didn't realise the answers on the back of the paper. If they just take marks off everyone, then that would be unfair
Tim Clamp, Leicester

"It was an exam where you have to listen to a piece of music and answer questions about it such as the name of the composer, the style of music.

"I was halfway through and having finished a question, I flicked through to the end to see what was coming. I couldn't believe it.

"I knew the answers already and only changed one answer that I was not so sure about. I e-mailed my teacher when I got home to let him know.

"My friends and I feel stressed about this - not knowing what action the exam board will take. And we are in the middle of our other GCSES. I would definitely not want to re-take it."

Exams regulator Ofqual said it would ensure that no pupils were unfairly affected by the exam mistake.

A spokesman said: "We will ensure that OCR takes the necessary action to make certain that no candidate is unfairly affected"

General secretary of the NASUWT teaching union Chris Keates said it was an incident which showed once again that exam boards were "accident prone".

"This puts a shadow over pupils' exams and adds to the anxiety. No system is perfect and we would not expect it to be but the exam boards seem to have a dubious track record."

Simon Decker from the National Association of Head Teachers said: "Schools across the country are very concerned that an examination board appear to have made such a serious error.

"Head teachers are hoping that the students' hard work towards their exam has not been compromised."

'Simple thing'

A spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA) said the mishap raised questions about the future of privatised exam boards.

She said: "Every year we have mistakes made by examining boards, mistakes which seriously undermine the hard work done by our students.

"Is it time for an end to individual boards when a simple thing like proof reading and print checking cannot be achieved?"

Helen and Becca
Helen and Rebecca: Concerned they will be disadvantaged

Two GCSE music students in Buckinghamshire, Helen Mulhall and Rebecca Jeffries, said they felt let down and they were sceptical about OCR's assurances.

"It's really unfair. Loads of us have worked really hard for this," said Helen.

The 16-year-olds sat their exams with a different board, Edexcel. They assumed that those who had taken the OCR paper would be asked to re-sit.

Told that this was unlikely but that OCR had promised no-one would be disadvantaged, Rebecca said: "How many kids are there sitting this exam? They can't make sure that everyone is not disadvantaged in some way."

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