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Exam body blames 'human error' for mistakes in Leaving and Junior Cert

Staff changes at the State Examinations Commission contributed to errors in the Leaving Certificate Maths and Junior Certificate CSPE papers.

Leaving Certificate answer books
Leaving Certificate answer books
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE STATE EXAM body has blamed human error for mistakes in this year’s Leaving and Junior Certificate examinations.

The State Examinations Commission said that staff changes in the past year, coupled with the operational demands of preparing large quantities of papers for the exams, contributed to the errors. In a report into the mistakes, the SEC said the level of error was “higher than normal”.

A mistake on the Leaving Certificate Higher Level Maths exam meant that one question – worth 10 per cent of the total marks available on the paper – had multiple correct answers. Separately, there were minor typographical errors in the Junior Certificate Science and CSPE exams and a Leaving Cert Irish exam, among others.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he was satisfied that the measures put in place to ensure candidates affected by the mistakes were not disadvantaged had been effective.

The State Examinations Commission today published a report into the errors (which you can read here) which contains a number of recommendations to reduce the risk of errors occuring in the future.

The report says that more than 23,000 people – including confidential printers, school staff,  examiners, superintendents, people who draft the exams and external contractors – have a direct involvement in the running of State examinations every year, all of whom are subject to established operating procedures.

In an unusual step, the report states that the SEC carried out an additional scrutiny of all remaining examination in June after the mistake on the Leaving Cert Maths paper was discovered to look for anything which needed a correction. Three changes were made as a result: The Irish version of the Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level Classical Studies paper – which was taken by one student – was reprinted, and corrections were issued for the Leaving Cert Ordinary Level Accounting exam and the Irish language Leaving Cet Ordinary Level Design and Communication Graphics paper.

“The SEC deeply regrets all of the errors in the 2013 papers and apologises to the candidates affected,” the report says.

The report notes that there were a number of assertions in the media of errors in other papers – including Leaving Certificate History of Art, Irish and Maths exams – which turned out to be incorrect.

The SEC list of errors in this year’s exams:

Leaving Certificate Mathematics, Higher Level, Paper 2: This paper contained two errors in one question. Because of the nature of the errors on this paper and the potential variation in impact on candidates, the investigation and management of these errors and the management of the marking of this examination were subject to a special protocol.

Leaving Certificate Mathematics, Ordinary Level – Paper 1: Under the Project Maths initiative, candidates in the 23 initial schools sat a different Leaving Certificate Mathematics Paper 1 from all other candidates. Question 5 on the Ordinary Level Paper 1 examination for these candidates contained an error, in that it asked candidates to complete some tasks that are no longer on the syllabus for these 23 schools.

Junior Certificate Mathematics – Higher Level Paper 1: Question 5 b (ii) asks for two values for ‘p’ whereas there is in fact only one such value. The Irish version of this paper also contained a translation error in that the phrase “even number”, in Question 3(b) (ii), was incorrectly translated as “whole number”.

Other errors:

  • A spelling error in Leaving Certificate Irish where the word ‘buaileadh’ was misspelt as ‘bualadh’
  • The inclusion of outdated information regarding the Referendum Commission in Junior Certificate Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE)
  • A typographical error in Junior Certificate Science, Ordinary Level, where an item was referred to as S in a diagram and B in the text of the question
  • A typographical error in Leaving Certificate History, Higher Level, where the word ‘of’ was omitted in a question
  • A typographical error in the Leaving Certificate Biology, Higher Level, modified version for visually impaired candidates
  • A typographical error in Leaving Certificate Higher Level Chemistry, where an incorrect unit of days rather than years was given for the half-life of an isotope. This error did not affect the workings of the question.
  • A typographical error in the Leaving Certificate Higher Level Arabic, where the first three lines of an extract of a poem were repeated at the end of the extract.
  • An error in the Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level Arabic where the title of the poem printed in Arabic was incorrect.

Read: The results are out – How students got on with the Leaving Certificate >

Read: Here’s what happened with THAT error in the Leaving Cert Maths paper >

Read: 9 unforgettable moments from your Leaving Cert results >

Column: The Leaving Cert poorly prepares students for the realities they now face >

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