Scottish pupils sharing past papers online could face shock in exam hall

Youngsters who are using Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exam papers posted on social media sites such as TikTok may risk failing their tests as many schools are using alternative questions, the exams body has warned.

It said it was contacting schools and colleges to ask them to take down any posts about the content of exam papers – but stressed that not all schools will offer the same test.

Teaching union the EIS also pointed out that schools were using a mix of questions.

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SQA papers originally prepared for last year’s Highers were issued as the basis for testing carried out by schools this week in place of formal exams.

Pupils are not doing formal Higher exams this year, but an "alternative assessment model"

However, the SQA said schools do not have to use the papers directly and can base their testing regime on a mixture of SQA questions, practice papers provided by commercial companies and their own questions. This means pupils who have relied on directing their revision to the content of papers posted online could be surprised when they enter the exam hall.

Papers and questions from the papers have been shared widely across social media sites, including TikTok

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Pupils have taken to the platform to ask others who have already sat the exam to share the questions. In some cases, students have posted pictures of full papers, while others have typed out topics covered in the paper.

One anonymous TikTok account set up just two days ago asked: “If anyone has sat any SQA exams please put stuff in the comments :) Help us all out.”

Almost 600 people have replied to that post, while a similar post has over 3,000 comments.

The SQA cancelled formal National 5 and Higher exams in December, but its “alternative assessment model” has been described as “exams by another name”. Despite a pledge that pupils would be graded based on teacher judgement and continuous assessment, the SQA now expects schools to produce evidence of pupils’ attainment under exam-like conditions.

An SQA spokesman said: “The security and confidentiality of assessment material protects its integrity and helps ensure fairness to all learners. SQA has provided secure assessment materials to help teachers and lecturers gather evidence for provisional results, if they choose to use them.

"Teachers and lecturers have the flexibility to decide how and when to use these materials, which can be used in part or in their entirety. However, we are taking these incidents very seriously and are contacting schools and colleges to ensure that posts are removed as soon as possible.”

He added: “The [National Qualifications 2021] Group has been clear that there is no requirement to replicate a full formal exam or prelim diet this year and that results need to be based on demonstrated attainment by assessment in a flexible way to suit local circumstances.”

Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, said: “The Alternative Certification Model, to be used this year, is designed to be based on teacher assessment of student achievement over a number of assessments rather than an end of year exam. These assessments, which are subject to a rigorous verification process, will differ from school to school and will not necessarily mirror the content of the papers provided by the SQA.

Scottish Conservatives education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “The Scottish Conservatives have been warning about this inevitable situation.”

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