This year’s exam period saw several errors occur in different exams across various departments, which could impact overall grades for students and cause stress for those in the exam procedures.
A first year Physics mathematics exam included an impossible proof. Due to the complexity of the mathematics it was not found to be impossible until after the exam when students calculated it without timed conditions. The Physics department has said that all marks for the question will be awarded for working out on the paper as it has been found that it would have been impossible to get the correct answer.
First year Physics student Nick Meadowcroft-Lunn told Nouse: “Theerror was present, but due to the complex nature of the question and the maths involved, very hard to spot or confirm during the exam, meaning people did all the correct working out, got the “wrong” answer and therefore assumed they’d lost marks, affecting their grade and confidence. Secondly, I know many people who spent ages trying to get the question to just work, failing, and spending over 45 minutes on a question that frankly wasn’t answerable, meaning they either didn’t do other questions, or did them badly.”
In a core English exam students were confused and frustrated when the invigilator interrupted their writing to clarify an admin error. Micah Mackay, a first year English student said: “There seemed to be some sort of miscommunication between the English department and the invigilators. We were told by our module convenor we would need to answer in two separate answer booklets but were only given one. Students who then queried this were told to continue in the same one. Halfway through the invigilator asked for our attention, as a result many students stopped writing to listen to him.
“He talked about the fact that we should’ve been given two answer booklets but should carry on in one if we’d already started the second question in the original booklet. Other invigilators then started passing round a second booklet to those who hadn’t started the second question so they could continue in that. The invigilator did not add on the time that he had taken up by speaking at the end, resulting in many students feeling as if they hadn’t got the two full hours for the exam due to disorganisation.”
A problem was found in an Economics paper, Macroeconomics III, as well, and the paper setter was unavailable during the exam to correct the error. Management students were also given an incorrect paper in the Strategic Management of Risk module. This was rectified and the correct paper given with the time of the exam being extended so that students had the full three hours to complete the exam.
There were also issues with students who require particular examination conditions being allocated inappropriate exam spaces. Some students with ADHD or eating disorders were put in small rooms in close proximity to others, and supervisors were rumoured to respond to complaints by saying “complain to the exam office”.
Academic Officer Thomas Ron commented on the issues saying: “I think that mistakes like these are completely unacceptable and there needs to be more vigilance in the future. If students are unsatisfied with the steps the department has taken then they should contact me and I can take it further if students’ concerns are not being taken seriously.”
A Standing Committee on Assessment Papers chaired by Dr. Steve King will be looking into the errors in detail next term. Dr King said: “We regret any errors in exam papers that slip through the careful checking processes that all departments follow. We recognise that any such errors can be upsetting for students. SCA receives a detailed report each year on exam errors, and we follow up with departments where it seems that the checking processes are not achieving their objectives.”