Error in A-level Chemistry paper handled differently across JCs, SEAB to ensure fair marking

Schools were advised to give make-up time according to the duration of the announcement.

Hannah Martens | November 19, 2022, 10:43 AM

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An error was found in the A-level H2 Chemistry Paper 3 on Nov. 16, Wednesday morning.

The error was question 5 of the H2 Chemistry Paper 3, where a bond between two elements was drawn incorrectly in one of the diagrams.

This led to students across different junior colleges (JCs) finishing at different times. The additional time given by schools ranged between one minute to 15 minutes.

Lack of SOP among schools

After the paper, some students took to Reddit r/SGExams to talk about their experience during the paper and differences in how the schools handled the error surfaced. For example, some schools were given an extra 15 minutes to correct the errata in the paper, while others received no time for correction.

In addition, some schools were given the correct diagrams printed on another slip of paper, while the other schools had the correct diagram drawn on a whiteboard.

A user on Reddit, u/SaltedCrap, compiled all the different actions each of the 22 JCs took that detailed each school and how they handled the situation.

A YIJC student shares their experience

One student reached out to Mothership to share their experience sitting for this particular paper. The student wishes to remain anonymous but shared that they were from Yishun-Innova Junior College.

The student shared that they were given a pink slip containing the errata along with their question paper but were told just to read it. The pink slip explained the error with just words, and no diagram was given. The pink slip merely explained that there was an error with two diagrams on the last two pages of the paper, pages 29 and 30.

The student said the Chief Presiding Examiner (CPE) instructed them that no help would be given to them if they could not understand the errata. As a result, the students could not raise their hands to seek clarification from invigilators.

"If you have studied for the H2 Chemistry paper, you should be able to make the edit by yourself," the CPE allegedly said.

"The error was minute, but some students around me did not understand what the words (on the pink slip) were saying," the student shared, "we couldn't understand it because we have not seen the question yet".

The students started the exam at 8am, and there were no more interruptions regarding the error.

The student summarised their experience in a Reddit comment.

student's comment on reddit Photo from student

With the compensation of one minute, the examination ended at 10:01 am.

"I felt really annoyed by the interruptions and disappointed in the error," the student shared.

SEAB to ensure fair marking after the incident

In response to Mothership's queries regarding the error and differing end time, Singapore Examinations and Assessments Board (SEAB) issued a statement:

The GCE A-Level H2 Chemistry paper 3 was conducted on the morning of November 16, 2022. There was an erratum to one of the optional questions, affecting two sub-parts, worth one mark each, which clarified the structural representation of organic molecules in prose. It was issued together with the Question Paper to every student at the start of the examination.

During the examination, a few schools sought further clarifications on the erratum with the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB). SEAB issued the clarifications to the erratum by sharing a diagram of the formulae. Schools were requested to announce the clarifications on the erratum to their students where they deemed necessary. Schools were advised to give make-up time according to the duration of the announcement.

SEAB will work with Cambridge to take into consideration the circumstances during marking to ensure that students are fairly assessed. SEAB will also review the management of erratum to avoid such incidents in future.

In response to SEAB's statement, the student from YIJC told Mothership that they remain "skeptical" of how the assessment is going to be fair, as everyone had a different experience, even within the same school. In addition, those in different venues went through different procedures regarding the errata.

Why the error matters so much to affected students?

GCE A-Levels is a national examination taken by schools and private candidates annually. These examinations determine where the students go for higher education and what subjects they wish to pursue.

"A levels are super competitive, and every mark is important since it translates to rank points. It is a huge determinant of whether we will get a place in a university. There is also the fear of having to retake the examinations and our time was wasted," the student shared.

Top photo from Eunoia JC's Facebook by Jonathan Lee