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Maths Department apologises for error not corrected until 40 minutes before end of exam

All students sitting the module have been encouraged to apply for Serious Adverse Circumstances


The Maths Department has apologised for an error in the Operations Research III paper last Wednesday, 9 May, and encouraged all students to apply for Serious Adverse Circumstances.

Students sitting the exam were confused when a question "didn't really make sense" and failed to fulfil the "basic conditions for the problem".

Despite invigilators walking around and speaking to students individually, there was no formal announcement to the room until over 2 hours in, with one of the two exam rooms only hearing of the corrections with 40 minutes remaining.

Update: In a statement on Tuesday 15 May, Professor Anne Taormina, Head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, said: “The Department of Mathematical Sciences takes the quality of examination papers very seriously.

“Exam errors are unusual and unfortunately one error was not recognised until part way through this examination. Candidates were advised how to replace the incorrect information.

“We are aware of student concerns over how this was relayed and are investigating as a matter of urgency.

“We would like to apologise to students for the error, and reassure them that appropriate measures are in place to ensure exam papers will be marked fairly and appropriately, taking into account the special circumstances.

“We will also be treating the situation as a Serious Adverse Circumstance for all students taking the paper and individual students may submit a Serious Adverse Circumstances application detailing how the error affected them.

“We will continue to review our processes to ensure accuracy and high standards in all our examination papers.”

Lewis Murphy, from Josephine Butler, told The Tab Durham: "The mistake was not announced until 2 hours into the exam, by which point most people had spent an hour trying to solve the question…The guy sitting in front of me during the exam was shouting at the invigilator for several minutes and most people in the room began talking to each other once the error was announced."

Another third year student, from John's, explained that he didn't realise there was anything wrong until an invigilator came and explained it to the person sitting next to him.

The student described how the invigilators then wrote it down on the board at the front of the room, but "without making any announcement". Due to the debating chamber having pillars throughout, many students at the back of the room couldn't read the board clearly, only finding out about the change when invigilators made an announcement with 40 minutes to go.

He described the "confusion" in the room once students finally heard an announcement from invigilators, stating that the announcement "was inaudible at first, and they had to repeat it several times".

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Screenshots of emails sent from the Chair of the Maths Board of Examiners following the exam

The Maths department have subsequently sent two emails to confirm that they will "take account of the error while marking". Despite this confirmation, students are concerned that the department "will not understand how much trouble this caused", especially due to the confusion caused whilst the invigilators "really took their time to communicate the change".

Josephine Butler student Lewis Murphy expressed further concern about the marking process, saying, "I don’t feel like there is any fair way that the maths department can deal with the marks since this error affected so many people and cost them so much exam time".

The news of yet more disruptions to exams comes after second year Engineering students found three errors in their exam earlier this week.