School misplaces exam scripts, students have to retake exam

By Fabian Koh
The New Paper
Monday, May 14, 2012

An entire cohort of Secondary 1 Express students at Punggol Secondary School had to retake part of their English Language examination last Thursday.

The reason? Their school, at Edgefield Plains in Punggol, lost some of their original scripts for the mid-year exams.

The students had taken the 110-minute English Paper 1 on April 27.

The school's principal, Mr Benedict Keh, said in an e-mail reply to The New Paper that the school had discovered on that day that scripts of two classes were missing.

The 80 scripts were only for the editing section of the English Paper 1, which accounted for 7 per cent of the whole English exam.

The school contacted parents of Express-stream students to inform them of the repeat exam for that section, which was conducted yesterday.

The students were given 20 minutes to complete it.

The repeat exam was of a similar standard to the earlier one, and the students were informed about it last week so that they could have ample time to prepare for it.

Said Mr Keh: "The school is appreciative that the parents and students responded with understanding and gave the school their cooperation."

He added that the school takes a serious view of this matter and will look into tightening the processes for conducting exams in future.

"An investigation committee, chaired by the vice-principal, was convened and an ongoing review of the examination procedures is being conducted to ensure that such incidents do not occur again," he said.

Students told TNP that the school called their parents last week.

Said one affected student: "They told my parents that some scripts had been misplaced, and that was why we had to retake the paper."

To ensure fair grading throughout the level, everyone had to retake the paper.

Wasted time and effort

Some students felt that the repeat exam was a waste of time and effort.

One said: "We took it once before. If this time we don't do as well as the other time, then wasted, right?"

He explained that before the rescheduled paper yesterday, he had taken a History exam, followed by a Literature exam.

Some students felt the stress of cramming three subjects into one day.

"After the Literature paper ended, we had time only to go to the toilet and to refill our water bottles before we started on English," one student said.

His classmate added: "If not for this extra paper, I would be home by now."

But there were also those who saw the bright side in having to retake the paper.

One optimistic student said he felt this was a great way to improve his overall score.

He said he studied hard again for this section, and that the paper made more sense this time as he was more prepared.

Another student explained that the repeat paper was an advantage in terms of time.

"The first time we did it, we were rushing because there were so many different sections," he said.

But most parents TNP spoke to were displeased.

One mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, said: "It's the principle of the thing. How can they lose exam papers?

"That's just so careless."

A student also told TNP: "My mother said, 'Why your school got teacher so stupid go lose exam papers?'."

A teacher from another school, who has 15 years of teaching experience, said she was surprised by the incident, "as this kind of thing rarely happens".

She explained that her school practises standard procedures while invigilating exams.

An exam committee would organise the exam scripts into bundles, based on the number of scripts each class needed.

These bundles are then left in trays in a holding area, which could be located in the head of departments lounge.

Said the teacher: "Invigilators will go in to collect the scripts about 15 minutes before each paper.

"We have to sign out when we take the scripts, and sign in when we return them at the end of the exam."

She said that the Punggol Secondary School incident could have resulted from a lapse during the time the papers were moved from the holding area.

"I have no idea how such a lapse could have otherwise happened," she said.

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