Letter: Maths cock-ups count

January 25, 2002

Mathematics A-level incidents these days seem to be mirroring my university experiences.

In my finals, I was faced with a seemingly straightforward question that I couldn't do. I now know that it relied on a specific method from a first-year course that I hadn't taken, although I did not realise that at the time.

It is not easy to communicate the state of panic, lack of concentration and the knock-on effect that can result when you find that you cannot do a seemingly straightforward question in a maths exam.

In my case, I received a bland statement that "there were other questions on the paper" that I could have done instead, which totally missed the point.

It is hard to see how Edexcel, the exam board at the centre of the latest botch-up, can fairly adjust the results so that students do not suffer. We had similar "reassurances" when one of our exams was brought forward by two weeks at the last moment. I could see at the time that these reassurances were worthless, and Edexcel's promises are probably worth just as much.

Brian Daugherty
Mathematics department
Portsmouth University

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