Pupils petition SQA over ‘impossible’ maths exam

More than 4,000 Scottish pupils have launched petitions criticising an 'impossible' Higher Maths exam. Picture: TSPL
More than 4,000 Scottish pupils have launched petitions criticising an 'impossible' Higher Maths exam. Picture: TSPL
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SCOTTISH students have waged an online campaign against the Scottish Qualifications Authority after deeming their recent Higher Maths exam to be “too hard.”

More than 12,000 school pupils have signed two petitions informing the SQA of their anger at the exam which was sat on Wednesday.

One petition demands answers from the SQA on why the exam was set to such a difficult level, and the other calls on the education body to regrade the results.

The SQA has moved to assure pupils that “no learner will be disadvantaged” should it be deemed by examiners “that the current and/or new Higher Maths Question Papers were more demanding than intended.”

It would appear that the problem has arisen as the SQA transitions to a new style Higher, while many schools still opt to teach the older syllabus.

An S6 student from Lasswade High School, who contacted the Scotsman, has spoken of their fear of missing out on their chosen university course as a result of the difficult exam: “Every student and teacher I have spoke to has said the same about the exam and my twitter feed after the exam was filled with complaints and disappointment. I was extremely stressed and angry at the end of the exam and I know most others where too.

“I, along with many others, have conditional offers for university courses that require a B at Higher maths. I revised thoroughly for this exam and after an A at Intermediate 2 I was more than ready to get an A or a B at Higher. I now feel this is not possible because of the difficulty of the exam.”

Following the exam thousands of students took to social media to voice their displeasure at the levels of difficulty they had encountered.

One S6 student explained: “First of all, the exam as a whole did not follow the common structure seen in the last seven years (since the introduction of the multiple choice section in 2008). I have been revising using the past papers provided by the SQA and every single one from 2008 to 2014 has followed a more or less similar construct, with the same type of questions found at each part of the exam. The 2015 exam had no relation at all to the previous year’s exams and I felt I had revised for the wrong questions, which should not be the case.

“Secondly, the difficulty of the questions was completely unfair. What seemed like A level questions were appearing early on in the paper and as I was used to answering the old higher maths questions.

“I feel it is not acceptable that I was given an exam that followed the new higher design more than the old previous years which I revised for.”

At present the two petitions have reached more than 12,000 signatures.

One petition reads: “Students, teachers and parents alike are in disbelief at the exam set by the SQA for Higher Maths. It bore no resemblance to the CFE course studied and specimen papers provided.

“The general consensus is that the majority of questions were so hard the students weren’t able to solve them. The SQA should be investigated as this is an outrage. Pupils have put so much preparation into this subject and have now been left traumatised.

“The knock on effect is fear of subsequent exams and the possibility of not gaining access to the university course they have worked so hard for.”

Meanwhile the second petition reads: “The ‘New Higher Maths’ exam was sat throughout Scotland yesterday. However the outcome of this exam reduced individuals to tears and extreme stress due to the high volume of ‘A/B’ type questions.

“This petition if important as we want SQA to take into consideration the difficulty of the paper when marking it which could I turn reduce the pass mark to a level which appropriately demonstrates our level of maths ability.”

A spokesman for the SQA said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by young people and their parents in these petitions and want to assure them that the question papers for the current and new Higher maths exams on Wednesday were developed and quality assured, using the same design principles and assessment specifications as the relevant Higher Maths Specimen Question Paper, under the supervision of the same senior appointee.

“All of these materials follow the relevant Higher maths course assessment specifications, which state the standard, structure and requirements of the assessments.

“As part of our post examination procedures, the pass mark and the cut-off score for each grade are determined after detailed consideration of quantitative and qualitative information.

“In addition, the difficulty of the question paper compared to previous years’ papers is taken into account.

“Please be assured that no learner will be disadvantaged should it be deemed that the current and/or new Higher Maths Question Papers were more demanding than intended.”