The number of material exam errors in the design of A-level and GCSE exam papers has more than tripled since 2015, impacting the exams of 3232,000 students this summer.
Schools Week reports that there were 37 material exam errors this year, compared to only 11 in 2015.
The largest increase was in category 2 errors: these are mistakes which cause “unintentional difficulties for students when they are responding to a question/task”. Category 1 errors- which are the most serious, and make meaningful completion of a question impossible- rose from 6 last year, to 16 this year.
One of the larger exam boards, AQA, which writes curriculum material and exams in GCSEs and A Levels, had the largest number of exam errors this year, recording 19 material errors in exam materials.
Commenting on the findings, an AQA spokesperson said:
“Each of our exam papers goes through a lot of checks. Unfortunately, though, errors can very occasionally slip through.
When they do, we always make sure that students don’t lose out – but one error is still one too many, so we’ve carried out a detailed investigation and we’re improving our checks as a result.”
Ofqual commented in response to its report, saying the number of errors in some exam boards’ materials was “noteworthy”, and it had sought assurance from all boards they had “identified the causes” and taken steps to reduce their occurrence. They added:
“We will also bring the exam boards together ahead of summer 2017 to make sure they adopt a common and consistent approach to notifying us of errors.”
The regulator’s report also highlighted an inconsistency in the way pupils are treated, when requesting special consideration for exams according to a watchdog. Ofqual says it plans to audit the way exam boards handle such requests.
Speaking generally about its approach to proper exam conduct, Ofqual said:
“The vast majority of students received the outcome their performance deserved without issue in summer 2016. Where issues occurred, such as security breaches, assessment material errors, or marking errors, exam boards took action to mitigate the impact. Where we had concerns about the actions exam boards were taking, we acted quickly to ensure that they took the appropriate steps to protect any affected learners.”