Rehashed A-level exam questions gave some students ‘unfair advantage’, pupils claim

Candidates say some biology test questions were lifted from a previous paper, but exam board stands by its exam and says questions can be repeated over time

Students have complained that an A-level exam taken last week was copied from a previous exam paper, giving an unfair advantage to pupils who had seen the earlier test.

The A2 biology exam, set by the Edexcel exam board, was taken on Thursday. More than 3,600 people have since signed a petition calling on the board to lower the grade boundaries for that paper.

“It has come to light that Edexcel have copied a unit 4 International A2 paper almost question for question,” the petition said.

“This the students see as unacceptable as some students may have seen this beforehand (despite it being of a different specification and not on the Edexcel website) and therefore had a clear advantage.”

The petition also complains that the exam paper contained grammatical errors and a “grainy diagram” that students could not see clearly. TES reported last week that an earlier version of the petition, about the same exam paper, complained that the test covered hardly any of the content from the specification and was “filled with AS knowledge that students were not informed was needed”.

Repetition ‘not uncommon’

But a spokesman for Pearson, which runs the Edexcel exam board, told TES it was standing by the paper and said it was “not uncommon” for exam questions to be repeated.

“We are confident that this question paper is clear, accurate and in line with the published specification,” he said.

“GCE [A-levels] and international GCEs assess similar content; however the styles and the context of the questions are different. It is not uncommon for questions assessing similar topic areas to feature in more than one exam paper over time.”

On Friday the board said its exam papers “accurately reflect the curriculum” and that it was acceptable to use some AS-level material because the assessment was synoptic. He said the synoptic assessment accounted for less than a quarter of the available marks.

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