Complaints over 'cruel' maths paper swamp social media - but one maths teacher says it's just students ranting

A-level students have taken to social media to express their outrage over the "torture” of a difficult mental-arithmetic paper. But a maths teacher insists that only a couple of the questions were difficult.

Adi Bloom

News article image

Even if students left out those questions altogether, he added, they would still be able to achieve an A or B grade.

Students took to social media to complain that the Edexcel C1 maths paper required them to multiply complex fractions in their heads. The questions did not include any whole numbers, which are quicker and easier to multiply and divide without a calculator.




This is not the first controversy of exam season. Yesterday, pupils took to the internet to vent their fury over an AQA GCSE biology paper, intended to cover the study of living organisms, which asked pupils what was meant by the term "independent company”. The question referred to a drugs-trial firm.

And almost 25,000 Scottish pupils have signed a petition claiming that their N5 mental-arithmetic exam – the equivalent of a GCSE – was unusually hard. They called for the pass mark to be reduced, or for the results of continuous assessments through the year to be taken into account in their final grade.

However, maths teachers are unconvinced that the Edexcel outcry amounts to anything more than a good, old-fashioned post-exam rant.

One Oxfordshire head of maths said: “I didn’t look at the paper and think, ‘Oh, my God. What was this? We should complain to the exam board.’

“There are a couple of questions that are really tricky, but I would guess that you can still get an A or B grade, missing out those bits. Past papers absolutely did prepare them for this.

“Students come out of exams, and some of them say ‘It’s fine’, and some of them say ‘It was really bad’. That’s just exams.”

This was echoed by a spokesperson from Edexcel, who said: "The paper was a reflection of the curriculum that students have studied this year. With every paper there there will always be questions that some students find difficult, which is often reflected in social-media comment."

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

Latest stories

Leadership: how to turn a failing school around

How to turn a failing school around

Rebuilding a school's shattered reputation isn't easy - but focus on belonging, brilliant staff and behaviour and you'll get there, writes Chris Edwards
Chris Edwards 22 Oct 2021
Staff surveys can be key to help uncover what CPD will really have an impact

How to use surveys to focus staff development plans

Staff surveys can be great for uncovering what teachers really want - but you need to ensure they ask the right questions and the insights are properly understood. Here's how you can do just that
Chris Lindop 22 Oct 2021