238 Singapore A-level Chemistry examination scripts stolen in UK

Students checking their A-level result slips yesterday in Nanyang Junior College, one of the four schools affected by the theft of exam scripts for Chemistry Paper 3, which carries 35 per cent of the marks for the subject. The scripts were being deli
Students checking their A-level result slips yesterday in Nanyang Junior College, one of the four schools affected by the theft of exam scripts for Chemistry Paper 3, which carries 35 per cent of the marks for the subject. The scripts were being delivered to an examiner in Britain last November when they were stolen.

Students get grades based on marks for other papers, with option to resit exam

A parcel containing A-level Chemistry answer scripts from 238 Singapore students was stolen from a courier van transporting the papers to an examiner in Britain last November.

Despite extensive efforts to trace the scripts for Chemistry Paper 3, which carries 35 per cent of the marks for the subject, they have not been recovered.

Meanwhile, the 238 affected students - 60 each from Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Junior College, and 58 from Anderson Junior College - have been awarded final grades based on their performance in the other three Chemistry papers and their cohort's performance.

The students' marks in Papers 1, 2 and 4 were used to work out the position of the candidates in terms of percentile ranking within the cohort. The percentile ranking was then used to derive the missing Paper 3 score.

The 238 affected students make up about 3 per cent of the total 8,843 students who sat the paper.

To check for consistency, the school-based examination results of the students were also taken into consideration.

The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) said all 238 candidates obtained at least a pass grade, with 81 per cent of them scoring As and Bs. More than 50 per cent are said to have scored As.

STUDENTS GETTING SUPPORT

We will support affected students as best we can. Given the unique circumstances of this incident, SEAB has offered the option of a re-examination. Affected students and their parents can also approach SEAB or their schools for further advice or clarifications on the way forward. I seek your understanding and patience as we continue to do what is needed. Cambridge has apologised and will review their processes to prevent a similar recurrence.

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION (SCHOOLS) NG CHEE MENG

"All of them attained better grades or maintained their grades compared to their school-based examinations," an SEAB spokesman said yesterday.

Students can also resit Paper 3 in April, and the results will be released by mid-May. In addition, candidates in full-time national service have the option of resitting the paper in November, with their results to be released by February next year.

Those who choose to resit the paper will have the better of the two grades recorded.

SEAB will work with local universities to ensure that the students' applications for places or scholarships are not affected.

Ms Tan Lay Choo, chief executive of SEAB, said that the board has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that the affected candidates were not put at a disadvantage.

She said that Cambridge Assessment and SEAB have an established procedure to award grades to candidates who miss a paper with valid reasons, such as illness. When the weighting of the paper does not exceed 50 per cent of the total score, a re-examination is not required.

The parcel containing the scripts was one of eight parcels stolen from a locked courier van. It was the only parcel containing exam scripts.

The courier reported the theft to the British police, but efforts to recover the scripts have so far been unsuccessful. Police investigations are still ongoing.

This is the second time that Singapore exam scripts have gone missing. In 1993, the then University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate lost the O-level scripts of 259 Singapore students who sat the English literature paper.

The scripts, which were sent to an examiner, were lost in the British postal service and never recovered. The students were awarded grades based on their performance in their schools' preliminary exams, and also had the option to resit the exam.

Mr Roderic Gillespie, director of assessment at Cambridge International, said the agency has been working with the courier company and the British police to locate the stolen scripts, but unfortunately, they have not been recovered.

 

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, commenting on Facebook yesterday, assured all students that the Ministry of Education is working closely with SEAB and Cambridge Assessment to ensure that everyone gets a valid and fair assessment grade.

He said: "We will support affected students as best we can. Given the unique circumstances of this incident, SEAB has offered the option of a re-examination. Affected students and their parents can also approach SEAB or their schools for further advice or clarifications on the way forward. I seek your understanding and patience as we continue to do what is needed.

"Cambridge has apologised and will review their processes to prevent a similar recurrence."

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What happened

Nov 10, 2017

The H2 Chemistry Paper 3 examination is held. There are a total of four Chemistry papers, of which Paper 3 accounts for 35 per cent of the overall grade.

Nov 10 to 16

Examination scripts are sent to Cambridge Assessment in Britain. Courier service then delivers the exam scripts to the examiners.

Nov 16

In Britain, while a courier driver is making his deliveries, he discovers that eight parcels from his van are missing. One of them had the 238 examination scripts. The other seven parcels were not from Cambridge Assessment.

Nov 30

Cambridge Assessment notifies the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) of the theft. Police investigations and attempts to recover the scripts are ongoing.

December 2017

SEAB stays in touch with Cambridge Assessment for updates on the police investigations.

Jan 5, 2018

Cambridge Assessment sends the incident report to SEAB. The police are not able to recover the stolen scripts.

Week of Jan 15

SEAB and Cambridge Assessment meet in Britain to discuss the course of action, and how to give a fair and valid assessment for the affected candidates.

End-January

Cambridge Assessment completes the marking of the Chemistry papers for all the candidates. This is followed by finalising the grades.

End-January to Feb 9

Cambridge Assessment and SEAB work to project the grades for the 238 affected candidates. Police investigations continue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2018, with the headline '238 S'pore A-level Chemistry examination scripts stolen in UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe