Those who have been through the various examinations in Singapore will know how stressful it is to be sitting in the examination hall while attempting the relevant papers.
Needless to say, the A-level papers are one of the toughest pre-tertiary exams that one may take prior to them applying for a university.
This year’s A-levels were no different compared to previous years as students from the various Junior Colleges (JCs) around Singapore studied hard in hopes of achieving their expected results.
However, an error in the Chemistry A-level paper, which was taken on 18 Nov, was settled differently among the JCs in Singapore.
This eventually resulted in students finishing at different times, which may have affected the balance and fairness of the examination.
Since the incident, the Singapore Examination and Assessment Board (SEAB) has told The Straits Times that they will be working closely together with Cambridge University, who are the assessors for the A-Levels, to come up with compatible solution to ensure fairness during the assessment of the papers.
Question in Third Paper Had Errors
For those who are still unsure of the news, it was basically an error in the question in the third paper of the H2 Chemistry exam.
In the question, a bond between two elements was shown to be drawn in the wrong manner in one of the diagrams.
This error was part of the two sub-parts of an optional question, which were each worth one mark.
In response to the error, SEAB clarified to every student at the start of the examination that the structural representation of organic molecules is in prose together with the question paper.
During the paper, SEAB mentioned that a handful of schools contacted them to further clarify on the clarification note that was given to them, which may imply that students were unsure of what the note meant.
SEAB Advised Schools to Give Additional Time
To help clarify the situation, SEAB created a diagram explaining the error. They shared the diagram with the various schools and instructed them to share it with their students.
In addition to the diagram, SEAB also mentioned to the schools to give students additional time to make up for the time lost due to the error announcement.
Some Schools Did Not Provide Additional Time
In an interview with The Straits Times, three students said that the announcement make-up time was given in some schools while in other schools, the announcement make-up time was not given.
At Nanyang Junior College, an error slip, which pointed out the wrongly drawn atomic bonds, was given to the students prior to the start of the examination.
This led to the exam ending at 10:06 am from the initial 10:00 am cut-off time. This was due to the additional five minutes that were given to the students to check their papers.
In contrast, students from Hwa Chong Institution were not given extra time although they had gone through the exact same incident as those from Nanyang Junior College.
This meant that although students from Hwa Chong Institution were given an error slip prior to the start of the paper, they were not given the additional five minutes to check through their paper.
Redditors Discuss about Incident
In light of the controversial incident, many students and parents took to Reddit to share their point of view.
In one of the comments in the A-Levels megathread, a netizen shared that he was only given one minute of additional time and was not given more time to change the errata.
He goes on further to mention that because of the error, he lost his train of thought.
In a separate thread, another netizen mentioned that he was not allowed to ask the invigilators to clarify on the errata.
However, ten minutes before the end of the paper, students from his school were told that they were allowed to raise their hands if they needed further clarification and a close-up view of the amended diagram.
He goes on to share that due to the announcement of the invigilator, he was unable to concentrate during those crucial few minutes.
Furthermore, the student mentions that some invigilators went up to students to show them the diagram despite them not asking for it, which is also another form of distraction that prevented the students from being able to fully concentrate.
Yes, every minute counts.
Under the same thread, a Netizen who goes by the username aervls posted a timeline of the various schools. The list is as follows:
- Anglo-Chinese JC: At 9.40 am students were shown the diagram, which took eight minutes. Their exam resumed at 9.48 am and ended at 10.08 am.
- Anderson Serangoon JC, Jurong Pioneer JC, Saint Andrew JC: From 8.00 am to 8.06 am students were given time to correct the errata. The paper started at 8.06 am and ended at 10.06 am.
- Catholic JC: Students were told about the errata before the exam and were told to read and amend it themselves during the paper. At 9.30 am invigilator talked about errata again and students were given two minutes of compensation. The exam resumed at 9.32 am and ended at 10.02 am
- Dunman High School: Students were given time to amend the errata before 8.00 am. Paper started at 8.00 am and ended at 10.00 am.
- Eunoia JC and Hwa Chong Institution: Error was announced to student prior to the start of the paper. No extra time was given for correction. The paper started at 8.00 am and ended at 10.00 am.
- Millennial Institute: Students were told about the errata before the exam. Halfway through the paper, invigilators went around showing students the diagram. Five minutes were given as compensation and the exam ended at 10:05 am.
- National JC: At 9.45 am students were asked to stop and were asked to correct the errata until 9.56 am. The paper resumed at 9.57 am and ended at 10.09 am.
- Nanyang JC: Error was corrected prior to start of paper. Students were given five minutes to check the paper. The paper ended at 10.06 am.
- Raffles Institution: From 8:00 am to 8.02 am, that time was given to students to amend the error. The exam started at 8:02 am and ended at 10.02 am.
- River Valley High School and Temasek JC: Error was corrected prior to start of paper. No additional time was given. However, invigilators were going around the examination hall to provide assistance to students who needed further clarification.
- Tampines Meridian Junior College: At 9.30 am the announcement was made, the exam resumes at 9:36 am and ended 10.06 am.
- Victoria JC: Error was mentioned before the exam started and students were told to correct it themselves during the paper. At 9.45 am an announcement was made to correct the errata and the paper resumed at 9.59 am. It ended at 10.14 am.
- Yishun Innova JC: No mentions of error prior to the start of the paper. At 9.50 am, an invigilator started making the announcement for the error. Other invigilators walked the floor to show students the corrected diagram. Students were given one minute of compensation and the exam ended at 10.01 am.
The user goes on to mention that these are just claims that he has gathered from the various students from schools across Singapore and further verification is needed.
However, if the accounts given are true, it can be noted that some students had more of an advantage as compared to others with some even getting up to eight minutes of compensation time as opposed to others on the other end who received no additional time for compensation.
Due to the inconsistency across the schools, students who were at a disadvantage mentioned on the Reddit thread that they felt very dejected.
Many who did not manage to complete the paper in time also confided in each other with some indicating that the additional five to six minutes could have allowed them to finish up their papers.
One user also indicated that students from his school openly expressed their unhappiness with how their school handled the situation and found it very demoralising as they studied day and night for two years for this particular paper.
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