More than 70 students took wrong O-level maths paper after blunder by schools

Twenty-four Secondary 5 students from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School were among those affected by the mix-up.
Twenty-four Secondary 5 students from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School were among those affected by the mix-up.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

SINGAPORE - More than 70 students from two schools here took the wrong O-level mathematics paper last Thursday (Oct 20), after a mix-up in the subject codes during registration.

A total of 73 Secondary 5 students - 24 from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School (AISS) and 49 from Woodgrove Secondary School - were affected. They had taken the O-level maths Paper 1 from the revised syllabus with the subject code 4048, when they should have been given the paper from the old syllabus with the code 4016.

During the exam, students came across a few questions they were unfamiliar with. They later realised that the paper they had taken was different from the one they had studied for, after comparing the subject code on their entry proofs with that of their 10-year series.

In a reply to queries from The Straits Times, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) confirmed the mix-up on Monday (Oct 24) but said no other schools were affected.

The revised version is being examined for the first time this year.

The Straits Times understands that the current Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) students are using the old maths syllabus as they started a year earlier than the Secondary 4 Express students, who are on the new syllabus.

The SEAB said both schools "had indicated the wrong syllabus code during the registration process" in the early part of the year.

While affected candidates have taken the Paper 1 for the revised syllabus 4048, the topics examined are largely comparable with the syllabus 4016, it said.

After both schools learnt of the error, they immediately informed SEAB to ensure that the students took the maths Paper 2 the next day under the correct syllabus.

SEAB is currently working with the schools and the University of Cambridge International Examinations to ensure that "these candidates will be fairly assessed" in the maths Paper 1 exam.

"We will take into consideration the circumstances of the incident, the candidates' performance in the school preliminary examination, their performance in the other mathematics paper and the cohort's performance in providing a fair assessment to the candidates for the mathematics subject," it said.

Some AISS students said they were shocked when they found out they had taken the wrong paper.

"I didn't think this would happen," said a student, who declined to be named. "There's probably little difference between the papers. Hopefully I won't be penalised."

On candidates' performance in preliminary exams being considered for assessment, the student said: "I think it is quite unfair, because we put in a lot more effort preparing for the O-levels."

AISS principal Chew Ing Lim told The Straits Times she has met the affected students to assure them and check if further support was required. She added that students and parents are appreciative of the school's efforts after the episode.

"Our immediate focus is to provide the necessary support to the students who are still in the midst of taking the national examinations," she added. "The students have been encouraged to stay focused."

Woodgrove principal Chee Chit Yeng told The Straits Times the affected students "have been briefed and their parent have been assured that they will be assessed together with the other candidates under the correct syllabus and would not be disadvantaged".

"The school is reviewing our registration processes to ensure such mistakes of entering the wrong subject code will not happen in future," he added.