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June 2013 Biol5 Essay

Students furious with exam board for putting 'impossible' question in chemistry paper

  • Anger over chemistry on Tuesday
  • More than 2,000 students have so far complained about exam on Facebook page
  • Question was worth five marks out of possible 100

By Daily Mail Reporter

Published: 02:00 GMT, 21 June 2012 | Updated: 13:14 GMT, 21 June 2012

An exam board apologised yesterday for a 'confusing' chemistry A-level question that students complain was impossible to answer.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance admitted that guidance given in an A2 paper sat by just under 16,000 teenagers was 'unhelpful'.

It has insisted that examiners will take into account 'the potential for confusion' when marking the question and ensure that students are not penalised.

Frustration: Students argue that a question was 'impossible to answer using the data provided' in a chemistry exam on Tuesday (file pic)

Students have set up a Facebook page, Thechem5paperwasadisgrace, which is 'liked' by over 2,000 people, in protest over the AQA chemistry exam which was sat on Tuesday.

They argue that one question was 'impossible to answer using the data provided' while some claim there wasn't enough time to complete the difficult paper.

The contested question - worth five marks out of a potential 100 for the whole paper - asked students to make a calculation using a ratio they should have come up with in part one.

To help students who could not calculate the original ratio, the paper gave them another ratio to use to answer part two. However, it also told them in bold print that this was 'not the correct ratio'.

One student said: 'A question regarding the percentage of a certain compound required us to use a ratio from the previous question. However if one did not get that ratio, there was a 'wrong' ratio given for use to at least get method marks.

'However, the result using this ratio was more than 100 per cent which is chemically, mathematically and theoretically impossible.'

Another said: 'I know that a lot of students spent a long time trying to work out a rational answer and so ran out of time to answer other questions. I feel sorry for a lot of people who are now worried that they won't get into university because of this exam.'

Baffling: The contested question was worth five marks out of a potential 100 for the whole paper

A spokeswoman for AQA said: 'We expect that the majority of students will have answered part one of the question correctly, used the ratio that they have calculated and will therefore have had no problems.

'However, the alternative ratio given in A6(d) (ii) leads to an answer that is different to what students would normally expect to see.

'Although the question can still be answered, we recognise the alternative ratio given was unhelpful and it has clearly caused confusion for some students.

'We apologise to these students and accept it would have been better to use a different ratio.'

She added: 'We would like to reassure students that we have established procedures in place to deal with issues like this.

'Our examiners will take into account the potential for confusion when they mark the papers and will ensure the results of those students who used the alternative ratio are not affected.'

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Essay titles


The process of diffusion and its importance inliving organisms.2.

The different ways in which organisms useATP (June 2002) OR ATP and its roles in livingorganisms.3.

The movement of substances within livingorganisms (Jan 2003) OR Transportmechanisms in living organisms.4.

Mutation and its consequences.5.

The properties of enzymes and theirimportance in living organisms OR The role of enzymes in living organisms.6.

The ways in which a mammal maintainsconstant conditions inside its body.7.

Negative feedback in living organisms (June2005)8.

Chemical coordination in organisms.9.

The production and elimination of metabolicwaste products in living organisms.10.

The biological importance of water (Jan 2003)OR The role of water in the lives of organisms.11.

The importance of proteins in livingorganisms.12.

How the structure of proteins is related totheir functions (Jan 2004).13.

The importance of lipids in living organisms.14.

The importance of carbohydrates in livingorganisms OR The structure and functions of carbohydrates (June 2003).15.

How the structure of cells is related to theirfunction (June 2002).16.

Natural selection and the effects of environmental change.17.

Gas exchange in animals and flowering plants.18.

The importance of molecular shape in livingorganisms.19.

The factors affecting the growth and size of populations.20.

Cycles in Biology (June 2003).21.

The causes of variation and its biologicalimportance (Jan 2004).22.

The process of osmosis and its importance toliving organisms (June 2004).23.

Energy transfers which take place inside livingorganisms (June 2004).24.

How microscopes have contributed to ourunderstanding of living organisms (Jan 2005).25.

Enzymes and their importance in plants andanimals (Jan 2005).26.

Mean temperatures are rising in many partsof the world. The rising temperatures mayresult in physiological and ecological effectson living organisms. Describe and explainthese effects. (June 2005)27.

The transfer of substances containing carbonbetween organisms and between organismsand the environment (June 2006).28.

Cells are easy to distinguish by their shape.How are the shapes of cells related to theirfunction? (June 2006)29.

Movements inside cells. (June 2007)30.

Transfers through ecosystems. (June 2007)31.

The part played by the movement of substances across cell membranes in thefunctioning of different organs and organssystems (June 2008).32.

The part played by enzymes in the functioningof different cells, tissues and organs (June2008)33.

Ions and Organisms (June 2009)34.

DNA and the transfer of information (June2009)35.

Carbon dioxide may affect organisms directlyor indirectly. Describe and explain theseeffects. (June 2010)36.

The causes of disease in humans (June 2010).37.

The role of carbon containing compounds inliving organisms.38.

The role of nitrogen containing compounds inliving organisms.39.

The roles of membranes in living organisms.40.

The role of DNA in living organisms.41.

Applications and implications of genetechnology.42.

Genetic variation and speciation.43.

Control of the internal environment in livingorganisms.44.

The movement of molecules and ions throughmembranes.45.

Roles of pigments in living organisms.46.

Light and life.47.

Support and movement in living organisms.48.

The chemical and biological control of insectpests.

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