Multiple errors in exam papers have affected hundreds of students across the University, raising questions regarding the scrutiny of exam papers.
Three separate exams known to o Exeposé were disrupted by errors and confusion. The first, was in a Biology Animals exam on Wednesday 6 December, worth 50 per cent of the module mark. Students were repeatedly stopped by invigilators as it became apparent that the exam included numerous errors.
In one instance, a four-option question was incorrectly listed as a five-option question. Elsewhere, a question with options iii, iv and v were wrongly detailed as options ii, iv, and iv. The exam was interrupted in order to communicate the Biology exam inaccuracies, an action which also affected final year Modern Foreign Language students sitting their exam in the same room.
Sophie Wakefield, a Biosciences student affected, said: “As a first year student, this exam was one of my first and therefore I was surprised that so many issues were present on one of the first papers I sat. It was frustrating that we were interrupted mid exam for the corrections to be made, but the invigilators seemed to deal with it well and we were given extra time to compensate for the time we were distracted.”
An anonymous fourth year Modern Foreign Languages student sitting her exam in the same hall commented: “Our exam was only one hour long so it was very troubling to be distracted, as it’s very hard to get back into the exam flow. Advanced translation requires an immense amount of concentration, and I feel that the disruptions, alongside the location choice – we were at the Tennis Courts and could hear gym music from next door! – severely hindered this.”
Dr Mark Ramsdale, Director of Education for Biosciences, said the exam disruptions were due to a “typographical error”. Commenting on students’ distress, he said:
“I would like to apologise to all students affected in the examination. All students were given ten minutes extra to complete the examination as a result of this error. Once the results of the paper are available, we will be able to assess the most appropriate action that does not impact on student performance.”
Much confusion also surrounded a Globalisation of World Politics exam for first year students, which saw students stopped halfway through the exam, worth 50 per cent. Students were told essay questions could no longer be answered due to similarities to a previously set coursework question – only for the department to reverse its previous statement ten minutes later.
Ellie Collett, a History and IR student in the exam, told Exeposé: “Obviously everyone who had answered [the coursework-style] question was really angry because we had written at least two pages. Ten minutes later, after I started panic writing another question, the invigilator told us we could do any question we liked and we got ten extra minutes.”
However, students sitting the same exam in a different location were not told about the suspected error. Politics student Alice Whittingdale, who sat the exam in the Old Library, said “I thought it was an odd question to ask as I had done my coursework on it as well. I didn’t realise the seriousness of it.”
Professor Andrew Massey, Director of Education for Politics, explained the events: “The question paper did not include a void question. The Politics department will be communicating directly with all affected students to ensure that no one is disadvantaged.”
As yet, however, students have told Exeposé that they have not received any communication from the Politics office.
Further freshers were hit with exam horror in their Microeconomics I two- hour multiple choice exam.
Politics, Philosophy and Economics fresher Natasa Christofidou spoke of the disruption caused to her exam, sat in the same hall as Microeconomics.
“It became apparent that the Microeconomics paper was filled with mistakes, meaning the constant announcements were disrupting everyone sitting an exam in the great hall. The papers should be scrutinised effectively beforehand.”
However, the University-wide Director of Education and Student Experience Ian Blenkharn, insisted such issues occur “very rarely”. He said: “The University makes every effort to ensure all exams are organised and conducted fairly, accurately and appropriately. Any student who wishes to raise concerns regarding an exam can discuss them directly with their College.”
Additional reporting by Sarah Gough and Fiona Potigny.