Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A-level Facebook protest widens

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education and family

The A-level papers have prompted instant online protests

Facebook protest groups against A-level exams taken this week have spread - with complaints about a biology paper from another exam board.

The AQA biology exam taken on Monday prompted an instant online protest with claims that the questions were unfair.

Another protest on the social networking website is now raising concerns about an OCR A-level biology also taken on Monday.

The Ofqual qualifications watchdog has called for a report on the concerns.

Students complaining about the two biology exams have expressed fears that they will miss out on university places.


These include students hoping to study medicine and dentistry, who are anxious that dropping a grade will damage their career ambitions.

They have claimed that the questions did not match the course that they had studied.

The OCR exam board says it is not aware of any problems with the biology paper - but a spokeswoman says if candidates have any concerns they should raise them with their exam centres.

On Tuesday, the AQA exam board had promised that the marking and grading process would take into consideration the concerns being raised by candidates.

Both of these exam papers are new specifications being taken for the first time - and thousands of pupils taking them have left angry messages on Facebook and other websites.

"How are we meant to get the required grade for uni when they don't even ask us relevant questions," asked a student in a Facebook group, with more than 2,500 members, complaining about the OCR biology.

"I've spent six months working hard... and only one out of the eight questions had any relevance," writes one student about the AQA exam, in a Facebook group with more than 9,000 members.


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

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

Ofqual, which ensures the quality of qualifications, says it has asked the AQA exam board for a report on the biology paper and "the actions they are taking in response to the concerns raised".

"We are not aware of any significant issues being raised with other papers sat so far during the January exam series," said an Ofqual spokeswoman.

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."

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