Mistakes in exam papers have always been a cause for concern for teachers and students alike, but in recent years the discussion of them has increased. High-profile mistakes have been discussed through the recent exam season, with students venting their frustrations on sites like The Student Room and Twitter in their thousands.
Students invest love and tears in their exams but don’t feel that exam boards reciprocate their effort. One user on The Student Room commented:
“When I was stuck or made a mistake in the exam I was always unsure whether I was wrong or the question was wrong.”
On some occasions when errors are noticed by the exam boards and messages are sent out to schools, exams have been interrupted, throwing students off their focus and causing a lack of confidence:
“AQA Chemistry A-level paper 1 yesterday had a mistake which really threw me, particularly because my school didn’t find the message [from the exam board] until I’d started the exam (It’s just me and I was in a room with people doing a law exam) so they actually had to take me into another room to explain stuff to me. Barely finished the paper in time and I know I made some stupid mistakes as a result of it.”
With young people accessing and interacting on social media in their thousands, it’s unsurprising to see an increase in their discussions about things they care about. Regarding a mistake in a GCSE English paper this May, a spokesperson for AQA commented:
“More than 200,000 students sat this particular exam with AQA, so it’s not surprising that there were so many comments about it – positive and negative – on Twitter.”
This shows students are being heard by exam boards, but are their concerns being dealt with? Errors in papers can undermine the confidence of teachers, schools and students. In a recent poll we ran, 86% of students stated they are losing faith in the system because of exam errors, impacting student confidence and increasing worries that they might not secure the grades they need.
THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Students are voicing their concerns and looking for reassurance after feeling let down by exam boards, and now they can offload to more people than ever. What used to be said to a few friends outside an exam hall now reaches thousands thanks to platforms like Twitter.
One of the main issues over the last couple of years other than errors in questions, has been exam boards supposedly disregarding the specifications set out for their own exams by asking questions that are not covered in the syllabus. Unsurprisingly, many students have shared their disappointment with this on Twitter:
COOOH? More like cooould you stick to the spec please OCR? #ocrchemistry
— yaya (@zara_court) June 27, 2017
What was the point going to college for 2 years for #ocrchemistry to chuck a load of questions at you that arnt on the spec?
— mel (@_Melwilliamsxox) June 27, 2017
I wonder if this exam will include anything off the spec or if it’ll be another hour of guessing… #ocrchemistry #ocrbiology #ocrexam
— Emma Holman (@xx_emmzie_xx) May 19, 2016
“Welcome to the DRIVING TEST Fred, can you first tell me what county this flag is from?” #aqabiology #aqa #aqaexam pic.twitter.com/pHFKzRR33u
— Ollie (@Totallydriving) May 18, 2016
Being able to access and interact with thousands of young people experiencing the same frustrations, gives students a much bigger voice but are their concerns being acted upon? As the rise in student expectations keeps pace with their increased ability to be heard, exam boards should not underestimate the power of the collective student voice.
An article published last month in TES (Times Educational Supplement), explores the effect of social media on this topic further, check it out!
Written by Hannah Gilbert, Marketing Intern at TSR, Student at The University of Sussex