Wednesday 17 January 2018

Pupils left confused and angry by exam paper mistakes

The angles and side lengths given in a Leaving Cert maths trigonometry question were contradictory
The angles and side lengths given in a Leaving Cert maths trigonometry question were contradictory

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Red-faced state exam chiefs have given an assurance that blunders in Leaving and Junior Cert papers will be taken into account when they are being marked.

Up to 15,000 students sitting the Leaving Cert Maths Higher Level paper faced consternation when they were confronted with a serious mathematical error in one question.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) also admitted last night that students sitting the Junior Cert Civic Social and Personal Education (CSPE) exam had been presented with outdated information about the role of the Referendum Commission.

One student blogged that as a result of the mistake in the maths paper, he "spent an excessive amount

of time trying to finalise my answer (which is impossible) and I lost time completing other questions which I knew.

"I am gutted and raging that such an error could occur on a Leaving Cert examination and it has me completely thrown off. I always found Paper 2 the easier one, but instead it was a disaster."

It is another unwelcome controversy around maths, which is the focus of major efforts to try to improve national student performance.

It comes as thousands more students stretch themselves to sit the higher level paper because of the introduction of 25 CAO bonus points for those achieving a minimum grade D3.

About 15,000 students were entered to sit the higher level paper, up 50pc in two years.

Meanwhile, the new Project Maths syllabus, which is being phased in, continues to divide the maths teaching community.

In relation to the maths error, Eamonn Toland of The explained that the angles and side lengths given in a trigonometry question were contradictory.

"A candidate would find it impossible to draw a scale version of the triangle in question based on the measurements given.

"Students are not asked to do this, but they are asked to find the other dimensions. There is more than one method of doing so, but different methods in this case will yield different answers," he said.

In a further twist, the Irish version of the paper did not contain the contradiction, but candidates were advised by their superintendent that an error had been made and were provided with additional information – which then made it contradictory.


The SEC said that it regretted both errors. A spokesperson said: "The impact of the error on candidates' answering will be taken into account by the chief examiner when finalising the marking scheme for this examination."

The higher level maths exam consists of two papers, with a total of 600 marks and question 8, paper 2, which contained the error, is worth 30 marks.

The CSPE question stated that the referendum commission's job was to present both sides of a proposed change to the Constitution, a function it has not held since 2001.

"This was confusing because the job of the commission was misrepresented," said teacher Jeanne Barrett of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Loreto College, Foxrock, Dublin.

Irish Independent

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