238 GCE A-level chemistry papers stolen in the UK

This article is more than 12 months old

Almost 240 GCE A-level Chemistry Paper 3 scripts were stolen on Nov 16 in the United Kingdom (UK) on their way from the Cambridge Assessment Office to the examiners.

The 238 affected candidates make up about 3 per cent of the total 8,843 H2 Chemistry school candidates.

The scripts were from Anderson Junior College (JC), Anglo-Chinese JC, Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and Nanyang JC.

The Chemistry Paper 3 is worth 35 per cent of the total weightage of the subject and consists of free response questions, which require longer answers compared to other sections.

There were four sections in total.

The other three components included multiple choice questions, structured questions and a practical examination.

On Nov 16, a courier driver who was delivering the scripts to examiners discovered that eight parcels from his van were missing.

One of the parcels contained the 238 scripts, while the other seven parcels were not from Cambridge Assessment.

The UK police are investigating the matter.

Affected students told The New Paper on Friday (Feb 23) they were surprised their papers had been stolen in the UK. 

Miss Sarah Tang, 19, from HCI told TNP: "Obviously, I was quite shocked that something like this could happen. It is indeed pretty unusual. But at the same time I don't blame the parties involved and I do appreciate the lengths that they've gone to, to ensure we get fair grades."

At the briefing for affected students at Anderson Junior College, affected students speculated on what could have happened.

There was also a question and answer session after the briefing. Affected students were given a form to explain the issue to their parents. 

Most of the students TNP spoke to said they would not retake the paper. 

Mr Nathanael Weng, 18, a student from Anderson JC, got a projected grade of E for his A-Level Chemistry, an improvement from his Prelims. He will be serving his National Service in April.

He said: "It's not worth retaking. Why would you want to make yourself suffer more in the Army? I don't believe in creating more stress for myself because of someone else's mistake."

Miss Annabel Lim, 19, from HCI, also said she would not retake the paper because she scored an A for her projected grade. 

She told TNP: "It's a bit weird because I've never heard of anything like this happening before. SEAB should take measures to prevent this from happening again because it's quite serious that so many scripts were stolen."

Another affected HCI student, Mr Tan Giap Hum, 19, got a B as his projected grade.

He told TNP he might have gotten an A if the papers had not been stolen.

But he would not retake it as he has enough points to enter the National University of Singapore's  Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

He said: "I'm a full-time National Serviceman, so I don't have the time to study."

However, Miss Tan Khai Teng, 18, from Anderson JC, said she would retake it to try to get an A. 

She said: "I think two months to prepare for one paper is more than sufficient."

Details of the theft were revealed at a media briefing at the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) in Geylang Bahru on Friday (Feb 23). It was co-chaired by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

For the affected students, the SEAB worked with Cambridge Assessment to project their grades based on the their performances in the other three components.

They also looked at how other candidates performed within the cohort.

To check for consistencies in a candidate's overall performance, they also looked at school-based examination results.

Over 80 per cent of the affected candidates received As and Bs as their projected grades.

Additionally, the affected students can choose to resit the H2 Chemistry Paper 3 if they wish.

They can register by March 9 to retake the exam which would fall either on April 25 or in November if they are serving National Service.

For those who retake the exam, the better grade will be recorded in their certificate.

SEAB is also working with the local autonomous universities to consider the re-examination results for those who opt to retake the Chemistry paper.

SEAB's chief executive, Ms Tan Lay Choo, said: "We understand the concerns that the affected candidates may have. SEAB and schools are in contact with them and their parents and will continue to provide them with the necessary support."

She added they are confident the grades they have projected for the affected students are fair.

A spokesman from Cambridge Assessment said in a media statement: "Cambridge Assessment has taken this unfortunate incident very seriously and has worked closely with SEAB to ensure that the candidates affected have not been disadvantaged.

"Cambridge Assessment will continue to review its processes to safeguard the integrity of the examinations."

Cambridge International's director of Assessment, Mr Roderic Gillespie, in a statement added: "The security of examination papers is of the utmost importance to us. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to the affected candidates, their families and their schools."

- Additional reporting by Jan Lee and Ry-Anne Lim