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Hedgehog question needles students

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 17 June, 2011 | By: William Stewart

Thousands of sixth-formers have joined Facebook campaigns protesting about an A-level biology paper that asked them to comment on the ethical issues involved in culling hedgehogs.

The hedgehog question is just one of a series of complaints about the OCR paper that has led more than 4,000 irate candidates to voice their outrage on the social networking website.

Many fear university places could be jeopardised by an exam on Monday which they claim was disproportionately focused on ecology - just one of the four modules on the syllabus.

They believe much of their revision and study has been wasted and have bombarded the OCR board and regulator, Ofqual, with emails amid calls to "break their servers".

"We did not spend two years studying biology, putting in many hours to achieve the grades we all want, for it to come down to questions asking us to discuss the ethical issues around culling hedgehogs," one candidate said.

Another pupil said: "A lot of the questions could be answered with common sense so I feel my hours of revision were undercut by this paper."

OCR has told the candidates their "feedback" will be taken into account when the mark scheme for the paper on "Control, genomes and environment" is finalised and grade boundaries are set.


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Comment (7)

  • This situation needs to be resolved prior to A level exam result day. I am the parent of a student who sat this exam on Monday 13th June, and the stress and anxiety levels have now hit the roof, this situation didn't hapen when they sat their A/S levels or The GCSE's. My Child did endless hours for this exam, it is very unfair that my understanding from them and there teacher is that this paper was very ambiguous and had an Eculogy theme throughout. ther are 4 Elements to this unit accrding to the OCR Text Book and Specification but it seems only one Element was being tested? also I have been told at a particular question asked for examples of animal inate behaviours? but the OCR A2 Bioloy Text book clearly states do not learn examples!

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    15:37
    18 June, 2011

    Benedictde24

  • its not just the fact that this paper affected our Biology Exam. I have now gone into my other exams thinking what the hell could they ask me. Some random out of context question could come up again. Its really shaken me about revision for other exams. I could have revised 2 days of biology and concentracted on the other subjects and still have got the same mark in biology!!! totally unfair

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    17:23
    18 June, 2011

    lindash

  • I began revising from march and to be honest i found this the hardest biology module but i sacrificed my Easter and kept going. I learnt and understood it all after many laborious and painstaking hours, needless to say I was very proud of myself and was ready to show off all of my knowledge. OCR greeted me on Monday afternoon with a slap in the face ecology paper, there was hardly and genetics, muscle, brain or any other topics you expect to be evenly distributed on an A2 level biology paper. I honestly don't know how i've done, as most of the questions felt like common sense questions and with those you're never really sure how you should answer to get the required marks. If OCR is trying to satisfy the general public's hunger to make A-level harder as they believe that they have gotten easier, they have failed. Setting an ambiguous biased paper is no way to answer those calls for a specification which is already very demanding, given the short amount of time we have to learn and understand it. I challenge all those people who think that my exams are easy or easier than theirs were 10/15/20 yrs ago to to do my exams. Lets see how well they would do because we no longer get marks for regurgitation, and OCR don't seem to have be able to set a very good and balanced application paper and answers the syllabus!!!!!

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    20:34
    18 June, 2011

    francis50

  • our son revised for this exam over many weeks and painstakingly as he believed this to be the most technical course content and difficult exam.

    He was totally dismayed and distraught after sitting the exam on Monday 13th June having been faced with a paper which showed no opportunity to show his knowledge of the subject and barely covered one module. He believes that anyone with or without understanding of the modules would have had an equal chancewith the paper, that it was ambiguous and gave no opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and scientific understanding of the course content or Biology in general.

    We hae contacted Ofqual and OCR but have only received the stock anodyne reply from OCR referring us to their statement. What our young people deserve is a proper resolution to this now.

    Although our son was not planning to study any of the biological sciences, his exam grade will affect his ability to get into his uni of choice, to which he was provisionally accepted on the basis of his expected grade. Not only has the exam shocked him deeply, it has also left him querying his reviion for other subjects and his chances in his other subjects.

    We await an understandable and honest answer as to what OCR will do now.

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    22:39
    18 June, 2011

    helgatetley

  • Two parents & two pupils writing comments on the TPS web-site; wow, that's new!

    I am a teacher of many years experience. Having twice been in charge of exams in two separate schools earlier in my career I can confirm that EVERY year (not just this year) exam boards make mistakes and every year pupils are inconvienienced (at the very least) by these mistakes and sometimes university places are lost due to them. eg I have seen pupils get a B-grade in mid August & ask for a re-mark yet by the time the re-mark appears 2 weeks later with an increased grade of A, they have lost their university place which depended on that A.

    The system is unfair but the system depends on humans & humans occasionally make mistakes. Try as you may you can never eliminate human error; nothing is 100% foolproof. What I do know is that turning a drama into a crisis never helps.

    The system isn't helped by unfair practices of elite universities in the speed in which they want to grab the 'best' A-level result candidates. These universities do this despite knowing some of the results may not reflect pupils ability.

    What really worries me this year is these facebook pages which just seem to contain pupils winding themselves up not-dealing with the problems that every cohort of kids in history has had to dealt with.

    Reading these comments above I can see classic 'helicopter' parenting:
    'the stress and anxiety levels have now hit the roof'
    'My Child did endless hours for this exam, it is very unfair...'
    'the OCR A2 Bioloy Text book clearly states do not learn examples'
    'totally dismayed and distraught after sitting the exam'
    'We hae contacted Ofqual and OCR '
    'young people deserve is a proper resolution to this now'
    'the exam shocked him deeply, it has also left him querying his reviion for other subjects'

    Instead of getting the kids through a difficult stage these comments just wind them up! Quoting textbooks at anyone never helps. I can understand the pupils complaining about what has happened to them, but surely aged 18 it is THEIR complaint not their parents. (And before anyone has a go, yes I'm a parent, yes my kids did A-levels & yes one of them had a very bad exam experience, that we all had to live with).

    I suggest the pupils (not the parents) write or phone their university choices and explain how worried they are. I suggest the pupils (not the parents) write or phone the exam board and explain how worried they are but I presume the exam board is doing all it can, which may not be much. I suggest the pupils (not the parents) write or phone the exam centre (school) and explain how worried they are but I presume they have already complained to the exam board, which is all they can do.

    All the pupils who took THAT paper are in the same boat, nobody taking that paper is any worse off than anyone else; is every pupil who took the paper in a tizz?. Yes it shouldn't have happened but it did. Demanding 'action' isn't going to help one bit.

    This may sound a bit cruel & unfair but sometimes life is cruel & unfair.

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    12:41
    20 June, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • I think you are missing the point Brooke Bond. What we are upset about is the fact the paper is not representative. I was confident that I knew ALL of the syllabus so the paper was easy. HOWEVER, another student may have known absolutely nothing about the whole syllabus except ecology... that student will be getting the same grade as me which is absolutely ridiculous, and I think us students should take action and rightly expect a fair outcome which will make us all happy.

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    18:43
    20 June, 2011

    Josh-A

  • Throughout history A-level papers appear that are 'not representative' of previous papers. It sort of defeats the idea of an exam if all the questions are predictable.

    Quote: 'I was confident that I knew ALL of the syllabus so the paper was easy.'

    You'll find your A-level has had a specification (not a syllabus) for more than a decade but that said you can NEVER expect an exam to be 'easy', again that is the point of the exam. Always expect the unexpected. This sort of argument will be brushed aside by the exam board, you've only got grounds to complain if the question was factually wrong, couldn't be actually done or wasn't reasonably within the exam specification.

    Quote: 'HOWEVER, another student may have known absolutely nothing about the whole syllabus except ecology... that student will be getting the same grade as me which is absolutely ridiculous....'

    Fuinny enough you are now digging a deep hole for yourself; you aren't annoyed because you didn't know enough about ecology you're annoyed because someone may have known more. I did Biology in 1978 & did some 'question spotting' to ease the strain of revision; I predicted 3 out of 5 spot on but suffered badly in 2 questions to scrape a C. Not my finest moment & a good job I studied maths, but I can't remember thinking it was anyone's 'fault' but my own!

    Quote: 'I think us students should take action and rightly expect a fair outcome which will make us all happy.'

    The only fair outcome I can see here is that you get in a time-machine, go back to a week before the exam & revise more on ecology. You can't complain if examiners set papers that are hard or vary the content of papers; THAT is their job!

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    9:29
    21 June, 2011

    Brooke Bond

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