Did pupils see 'plagiarised' GCSE question before exam?

Exam board Edexcel admits a question on its GCSE maths paper is almost identical to one in an AQA textbook

Catherine Lough

Some candidates have raised concerns about a 'plagiarised' question in a GCSE maths paper

An exam board has admitted using a question that is almost identical to one from a revision textbook, giving some students an unfair advantage.

In its GCSE Maths Paper 3, Edexcel included a question with the same diagram, values and answer as a question from the textbook AQA Certificate: Further Maths.

In the Edexcel paper, students were asked to calculate the bearing of the fictional town of Chorlton from Acton. In the AQA revision textbook, students needed to calculate the bearing of Chorton from Aldbury.

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Two of the question points from the AQA textbook were removed from the Edexcel paper, yet the distances and angles in each diagram were identical.

The further maths qualification is an additional exam taken by students predicted to achieve the highest grades in GCSE maths. Students and teachers argue the plagiarised question gave those sitting both qualifications an unfair advantage.

Edexcel: 'No one will gain an advantage'

Angela Duffy, an A-level maths teacher, told The Student Room that the question would clearly advantage students taking Edexcel Maths and AQA Further Maths.

"Inevitably, similar questions appear but in this case no numbers have been changed at all," said Duffy.

Former teacher Pete Langley, who works with The Student Room as a study help lead, said the copied question was clearly unfair for students.

“The question is adapted a bit, but obviously plagiarised. Students tell us time after time that when it comes to exams all they want is a level playing field,” he added.

“But here is a situation where students who have used that textbook and experienced that question will be at a clear advantage. What happened to the checks and balances that should have been in place to prevent this kind of lazy questioning?”

After the exam, students took to social media to demand an explanation from Edexcel.

A Pearson Edexcel spokesperson said: “This question is a typical and valid question to be asked in a GCSE higher tier maths paper aimed at a very small number of the most able candidates aiming for a grade 9. We can confirm that a similar question appears in a textbook for a qualification published by a different awarding organisation.

“We are investigating how this might have happened. We understand that students want to be confident in a level playing field and we want to reassure everybody that we have established processes in place to ensure no one will be advantaged or disadvantaged.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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