12 Facts About the Lost A-Maths O-Level Scripts That’s Only Revealed Today

Lest you feel a strong sense of déjà vu, and start to tell us that this is yesteryear’s news, hold your horses because like mass food poisoning and SingPost’s ordeals, missing answer scripts for Singapore national exams have also become a falling row of dominoes.

Incidentally, today’s also the day when the O-level results are released, and just like last year’s incident, this is only revealed when the results are announced.

So, what happened? Did someone who didn’t do well decide to go all the way to the UK to burn the scripts? What’s going to happen to those students who are affected? Why the delay in informing students?

And most importantly, why weren’t my scripts lost back in the days when I took my O-level?!

Well, read on because this time round, it’s a tad different from the previous incident.

What Happened Last Time?

If you didn’t come to our app daily (see lah), you might have missed out on what happened last year.

On the day when the A-level results were released, it’s revealed that the H2 Chemistry Paper 3 were stolen way before the release of the results. Apparently, the thief had broken into a locked van to steal eight parcels and unknowingly stole the scripts.

238 scripts out of the 8,843 scripts were lost, and SEAB and Cambridge Assessment decided to use Paper 1, Paper 2 and the practical test, together with the students’ prelim exams, to project the overall grade.

Students can choose to retake the exam if they want to, or accept the projected grade. Back then, at least 81% receive an A or B—now remember this grade because it’s important. Read on and you’ll understand.

What Happened This Time?

Simply put, 32 O-level A-Maths Paper 2 scripts were lost. In case you’ve forgotten all about your maths exams, here’s a recap: we would usually have two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2, for our maths examination. They usually carry equal weight: in this case, the Paper 1 comprises 44% of the total grade while Paper 2 comprises 56%.

How Did it Happen?

Unlike the previous incident which couldn’t be avoided, this is due to a person’s negligence.

Apparently, on 21 November 2018, an examiner who was tasked with marking the 32 scripts was travelling with the scripts via a train from London to the north of England. He had kept the scripts in a bag and put it on a luggage rack.

Then the unthinkable movie-like scene happened: someone mistakenly took his bag because they looked pretty similar.

And the next unthinkable drama-like scene happened: the incident was only reported on the next day, on 22 November 2018.

How Come the Scripts Can Be Taken Away by an Examiner?

Now this is something very new to everyone: apparently, examiners aren’t full-time staff who’re tasked to merely mark exam papers. They’re contracted from all over the UK and typically hold full-time jobs, though they’re subject matter experts.

Due to the “fairly tight deadline”, the examiners are allowed to bring the scripts home to mark.

In other words…my papers could have been marked by someone who’s wearing pajamas on his bed?!

What Happened After That?

Immediately after the incident was reported, they tried to locate the bag but failed to do so. On 14 December 2018, almost three weeks after the scripts were lost, they informed SEAB.

By 21 December 2018, the marking and grading of the scripts were completed and unfortunately (or fortunately?), they’d come out with the grades for the affected students.

And today (14 January 2019) is the day that those students knew about the fate of their scripts, and that somewhere out there in England, someone is holding on to a pile of scripts and wondering why Singaporeans’ handwritings are so weird.

Examiner “Fired”

The examiner has been deemed to have “breached Cambridge Assessment’s security policy of transportation of scripts by leaving them unattended,” and therefore wouldn’t be engaged to mark scripts in the future.


In other words, kena fired lah.

Why the Delay in Informing Students (again)?

Just like the previous incident, SEAB did not inform the students about the lost scripts as they did not want to give them “undue anxiety and distress”.

In addition, the reason why Cambridge Assessment only told SEAB three weeks after the scripts were lost was that they were “hopeful” that they could find the scripts.

Who Are the Affected Students?

Well, they’re all students from the west.

Out of the 32 scripts, 20 are from Nan Hua High School and 12 from Hong Kah Secondary School, which is now merged with Jurongville Secondary School.


What’s Going to Happen to the Students?

Similar to the previous incident again, the students would be graded based on their grade in Paper 1 and their prelim examinations. As usual, they’d be allowed to retake the paper next month, but come on: anyone who’s gone through the stress of any maths paper would know it’s, erm, hellish.

Apparently, out of the 32 students, 3 failed the subject, which means almost 9% of the students failed. However, 20 of them scored distinction.

Now, remember: in the previous incident, it’s only revealed that 81% gets A or B. There was no mention of whether anyone fails or not.

What Cambridge Assessment Says

Well, you can bet they’re very sorry.

The Director of Assessment from Cambridge flew all the way down to Singapore to give a media briefing, saying this: “I have come to Singapore to show you how importantly I take this incident and how sorry Cambridge Assessment is…We would like to really offer our sincere apologies to the candidates who have been affected and their parents and to absolutely reassure you that we are doing everything we can so that the candidates will get a valid and fair assessment.”


What SEAB Says

The Chief Executive of SEAB has this to say: “We were very upset and disappointed when we heard the news from Cambridge Assessment, especially since this happened so close to last year’s incident…Our priority now is to ensure that the affected candidates are not disadvantaged by the incident, and that they are given a valid and fair assessment for the Additional Mathematics examination.”

They would be meeting with senior officials from Cambridge Assessment to discuss about this issue, and “besides tightening the process and (looking into) the assurance they can give us, we are also looking at whether there is a cause for us to seek penalties.”

Wah, penalties seh.

New High-Tech System to be Implemented Soon

Honestly speaking, marking with red pen is so yesterday.

After this incident, Cambridge Assessment reminded examiners to keep the scripts secure, but in the future this might not happen again: they’ve moving towards something known as “on-screen marking”, whereby the scripts would be scanned and marked by examiners digitally through authorised access.

In fact, about 65% of the papers in 2018 were marked in this high-tech manner, and they’re looking to make it 100% this year.

SEAB has even considered scanning the scripts in Singapore and sending them over to the UK, which means our scripts might never even leave Singapore.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?


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