Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Facebook campaign against A-level exam paper

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education and family

The A-level paper has prompted an instant online protest

Thousands of A-level pupils have launched a campaign on Facebook against an exam paper which they claim included unfair questions.

The AQA biology paper taken on Monday has prompted an instant online protest - with allegations that questions did not match what pupils had studied.

"I've spent six months working hard... and only one out of the eight questions had any relevance," writes one student.

The exam board promises that markers will take these concerns into account.

Although saying that the exam paper was not incorrect, the exam board has responded sympathetically to the complaints.

This is the first year this exam specification has been taken and the AQA board says this can cause uncertainty about what should be studied.

It has promised that both marking and the awarding of grades will take these concerns into consideration.

More than 3,000 students have been sending angry messages to the Facebook group about a paper which they have labelled a "disgrace" - including fears that this could damage their applications for degree courses.


They want markers to recognise that there were problems with the paper - and claim that pupils thought initially that they were facing a different exam subject.

"We all feel we've been robbed of our time (during lessons and revising) and our university places," says one pupil.

However there are also comments from pupils who say they had no disagreement with the questions - and that "everyone should stop whining because nothing can be done now".

The social networking protest has been prompted by an individual A-level paper - unit 4 of the biology exam.

Many of the protests make their points in strong language - and include doctored images making fun of the exam paper.

They make claims that there has been a mismatch between what they had been taught and the content of the questions they found on the exam paper.

There were also some more restrained messages directed at the exam board.

"I am hugely disappointed because your examination was highly unsatisfactory; has not included a significant amount of the current specification and gave questions which were not akin to the specimen papers provided, and other questions of such an obscure nature, that it was extremely difficult to decipher what was necessary to gain the marks."

A spokeswoman for the AQA exam board said they had not previously seen such an online protest about an exam.

But she said that the exam board was "aware of concern amongst some candidates for this examination that the exam has not allowed them to fully demonstrate their understanding and abilities".

"We will take account of these concerns when marking the examination. The concerns will also be considered at the awarding meeting where we make final decisions regarding the award of grades."

This is the first time this exam specification has been taken, said the exam board spokeswoman.

As such, "candidates are often uncertain about what will be required of them in examinations".

"In order to support centres and candidates, we publish detailed specifications which set out the subject content and the assessment objectives which will be used to assess candidates' skills. We also publish specimen question papers and other support material and run national support meetings."

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