How can this be fair?

When Bosworth’s Examinations Officer recently re-read the latest version of the “Yellow Book” (examination regulations) to ensure that we conduct examinations in full compliance with the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) regulations, she was incensed. Not a woman easily moved to question JCQ rules which she generally considers perfectly reasonable and always applies with fair but firm rigour, this year has seen her mystified and incredulous. “How can this be fair?” was her cry.

Timetable clashes

It’s to do with timetable clashes (Section 7 in the regulations, if you care to check). Examination Centres are accustomed to managing cases correctly where a candidate has two or sometimes more examinations scheduled in the same session. It’s not unusual for a candidate to be kept in isolation between morning and afternoon sessions, for example, where two long examinations have been timetabled into the same slot. The candidate sits the first exam as usual in the morning and then is escorted, with no access to other candidates, a telephone nor a computer, to a supervised area, in isolation, perhaps with other candidates in the same predicament. After an opportunity to refuel and to do some very last-minute final swotting-up, the candidate is escorted back to the examination hall to take the paper that had been scheduled for the morning session alongside others sitting an entirely different examination, thus assuring the integrity of the test.

What’s different this year?

In previous years, where a candidate has an examination class of two fairly short papers, it has been possible to arrange for the student to sit one paper after the first without leaving the room. This used to be fairly common practice with the old specification in Mathematics and Further Mathematics, for instance, where two 90-minute papers were very often timetabled into the same session. This was bad enough, but at least there was no huge change of topic – both papers being Maths. Candidates tended to plan for a 3-hour Maths exam rather than thinking of the session as particularly gruelling. Also, candidates up and down the land found themselves in the same predicament and so there was no obvious unfairness.

This year, however, there are new regulations about candidates taking two or more shorter examinations in the same session (morning or afternoon) and THERE IS unfairness. Examinations Officers are told, (7.3), “If candidates are taking two or more examinations in a session and the total time is three hours or less, you may decide the order within the timetabled session in which to hold them.” So far, so good.

But then, “You may also give candidates a supervised break of no more than twenty minutes between papers within a session. This must be conducted within the examination room, under normal invigilation conditions at all times. Therefore candidates cannot revise.” The bold and underlining are in the regulations and not mine.

If you have a clash of two short papers, you are DISADVANTAGED!

Consider our candidates who start off with an AS English Language paper and then may have a “break”, without leaving the room and without access to revision materials, before starting their AS Mathematics. Or, the candidate who has AS Chemistry, then up to 20 minutes to sit in the examination room for a “break” before starting on AS Sociology. Then there are the GCSE Computer Science candidates who move on to GCSE Business Studies without leaving the room and without the possibility of revising immediately prior to the second exam in the same session. This is NOT FAIR! Other candidates who do not have a clash have access to their revision notes immediately before starting their exam, fresh and ready to scrawl. The candidate with the clash does not have the same opportunity for the reassuring final glance at revision notes, instead being allowed only to sit in silence in a scary silent hall, awaiting the next paper, scarcely refreshed, and is therefore disadvantaged.

It is perfectly possible to isolate such candidates in a separate room, with no contact with anyone who has already taken the paper, yet allowing them access to their books. The security of the exam paper would in no way be jeopardised by such an arrangement.

This new regulation of not allowing those with a clash to have even just 20 minutes with their notes in between the exams means that there is a discrepancy between the clash and the non-clash candidates. It’s simply unjust and we urge the JCQ to reconsider.

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