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Exam board to be fined record £175,000 after mixing up Montagues and Capulets in GCSE paper

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Post time: 2018-07-03 18:35:45
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A question about Romeo and Juliet in an OCR English literature paper confused the two warring families

Camilla Turner, education editor

2 JULY 2018 • 8:02PM

An exam board is to be fined a record £175,000 after mixing up the Montagues and the Capulets in a GCSE paper.
A question about Romeo and Juliet in an OCR English literature paper, which was sat by 14,261 candidates last May, confused the two warring families.
Their mistake rendered the question incomprehensible and meant that the exam paper was “not fit for purpose”, according to the exam regulator Ofqual.

On Monday Ofqual announced that it intends to impose a hefty financial penalty of £175,000 on OCR, which is the largest fine it has ever issued.
The error was in a question that read: "How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt's hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?"
But Tybalt is Juliet's cousin and a Capulet himself, so the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.
The question was one of two Romeo and Juliet questions on the paper, with candidates required to pick one to answer.

Students were asked "How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt's hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?"

A total of 14,261 students sat the exam paper and of these 4,000 to 5,000 students answered questions on the play - split half and half between the two questions, according to Ofqual's investigation.

The mistake was made during the setting of the paper and was not picked up during checks. An OCR spokeswoman apologised to students, teachers and parents, adding that it has revised its check system with the aim of "improving the quality of our question papers".
The exam watchdog said the board's failings in this case are likely to have a "serious adverse impact on public confidence in qualifications", particularly because the error happened during the first year that new GCSEs were being examined.
Ofqual also said that while OCR had acted to mitigate the situation, 2,735 candidates had been awarded a result which had been calculated based on their performance in other GCSE English literature questions because they had performed less well in relation to the Romeo and Juliet questions.
And 2,919 students who answered a Romeo and Juliet question were given the examiner's mark because this was higher than a calculated mark would have been.
An OCR spokeswoman said: "We would like to apologise again to students, teachers and parents for the error last year which led to regulatory action. We want to reduce the chance of errors like this happening in the future.
"We have revised our system of checks, based on extensive research, with the aim of improving the quality of our question papers."

The board has until July 16 to make representations on Ofqual's decision to fine, and then a final decision will be made. However, it is understood OCR will not contest the fine.

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