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Marking of Leaving Cert Maths papers 'will reflect time lost by students'

Science minister Sean Sherlock believes the State Examinations Commission will ensure no student loses out over the error.

A JUNIOR MINISTER has said the marking schemes for the Leaving Certificate Mathematics paper II for higher level students will make allowances for the time that students may have lost due to an error in one of the questions.

Seán Sherlock said the error – which meant it was possible for students doing one trigonometry question to get two valid answers – would be accommodated when the papers are marked.

“As we are in the midst of the examinations process I think it’s important to reassure pupils who have gone through this, yesterday, that it will be taken into account – that the error will be taken into account in terms of the marking scheme,” Sherlock said.

He later added that “the time lost in terms of answering questions… that will have to reflected in some compassionate way as well.

“And I have confidence that that will be done,” said Sherlock, whose role as junior minister for science means he has responsibility for the development of the alternative Project Maths syllabus.

Traditionally, any error in a state examination paper is accommodated by either expunging the question from the marking scheme entirely, or by allowing marks to students who gave an otherwise correct answer to an erroneous question.

Trying to make allowances for the time lost by students, however, will prove a more difficult task – as those marking the papers could now be asked to accommodate the fact that a pupil may not have had time to attempt a question at all.

SEC to investigate source of error

Sherlock told Labour’s Eamonn Maloney and Fine Gael’s Anthony Lawlor that the State Examinations Commission (SEC), which administers and oversees the Leaving and Junior Cert exams, would begin an investigation into how the error on the Maths paper had occurred.

The error on yesterday’s Higher Level paper meant that candidates were told the degree of an angle in a particular triangle – a mistaken inclusion which meant it was possible to get two correct answers for one question, depending on the tactics used by a student to address the problem.

The figure was not included on the Irish language edition of the paper – but students sitting the exam trí Ghaeilge were advised that the omission of the extra number was itself an error, and told to answer the question as if the number was present.

“There are issues that arose yesterday for which there has to be a degree of accountability, to the parent Department… in relation to how to resolve these issues into the future.”

He said he hoped the errors would lead to a “reporting mechanism and a degree of accountability” by the SEC to the Department of Education “in regard to what occurred in relation to the papers.”

Increasing numbers of Leaving Cert students have opted to sit the Maths exams at Higher Level in the last two years, largely as the result of a scheme which sees students given 25 bonus points in the college applications system for passing the subject.

An estimated 14,517 students were due to sit the Higher Level Maths papers this year – each of whom would have been expected to attempt the question concerned.

In a separate error, the Junior Certificate paper in Civic, Social and Political Education – sat by all 57,590 candidates – contained an error in which the role of the Referendum Commission was incorrectly described.

That error should have not have had a direct impact on the answers given by students, however, and in that case the question was one of four options available to students.

More: Further errors in Leaving Cert maths exams highlighted

Read: 17 of the best incorrect exam answers of all time

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Gavan Reilly

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