After a section of an A-Level exam was leaked on a revision website, regulators are looking at ways to minimize the chances of confidential leaks happening in the future. One possibility would be to narrow the three-month window given to schools to administer the exam to their students.
More than 20,000 students were able to view a portion of the AS level Biology exam before taking it, writes Graeme Paton for The Daily Telegraph.
The current rules give schools three months to allow their students to complete practical experiments under exam conditions and then to turn over those results to be assessed and folded into the final A-level grades. The generous window is given on account of the fact that some schools don't have adequate lab space to accommodate all the students who need to take the exam in a shorter time period.
But earlier this month it emerged that questions from this year's Externally Marked Practical Assignment (EMPA) in biology – set by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board – had been leaked almost word-for-word onto the "Get Revising" website.
Pupils from a number of schools are understood to have come across the questions, which were based on the issue of surface area-to-volume ratios, while attempting to prepare for the test.
Leading figures from the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents top private schools, insisted that the test had been undermined by the security breach and called for the end of exams sat over such a long period.
Bernard Trafford, who heads up the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, echoed those sentiments, saying that a more reasonable window must be put into place to minimize the chance of cheating and leaks. The true victims of such leaks, according to another grammar head Anna Wicking, are the hard-working students who now must overcome a steeper grading curve thanks to their cheating peers.
Still, the AQA is denying the leak, saying that the paper that was found on the internet did not explicitly refer to EMPA and therefore will not be appearing on the actual exams taken by students.
But it admitted that it was now reviewing the length of time afforded to schools to complete the assessment to avoid any repeat.
In a statement, the board said: "We don't think that any student who saw the material before taking their EMPA would have had any particular advantage – because they wouldn't be expecting that specific material to come up.
"So we can reassure students that the marking and awarding of the EMPA will carry on as normal."