GCSE and A-level papers being sold on social media for £1

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: redsnapper/Alamy</span>
Photograph: redsnapper/Alamy

GCSE and A-level papers from last year’s cancelled exams, which are being used by many schools in England this summer, are being sold to pupils on social media for as little as £1, the Guardian has learned.

The 2020 papers, which were not sat last summer after exams were cancelled as a result of the pandemic, are being offered on social media websites with straplines such as: “Sitting your GCSEs? Scared you’re going to fail?” and “2020 papers leaked. Easiest 9 ever.”

On one site, a seller offers AQA’s 2020 GCSE biology paper 2, complete with the mark scheme. “OK how do I get them,” the purchaser asks. “Pay. By PayPal,” comes the response. Papers from other exam boards are also on offer.

With traditional exams cancelled again this year, schools in England are using a range of assessments – including exams, coursework and mocks – to draw up grades for this year’s cohort. There are fears, however, that the reliability of grades could be undermined by pupils getting hold of papers in advance.

The mother of a 16-year-old boy who is working towards his GCSEs told the Guardian: “Like many others, my son’s school has chosen to use last year’s GCSE papers as a large part of the required evidence for this year’s centre-assessed grades. The exam boards have assured the schools that the papers are ‘secure’ and are not in general circulation and are therefore safe to be used as exam papers.

“Last night I received an email from my son’s school to say that they had become aware that he had been able to get prior access to the AQA biology paper 2 that he sat yesterday morning and as a result they were going to make him sit an entirely new exam on his own next week.

“I did my own research and found that all of the past papers from AQA and other exam boards are readily available on TikTok and Instagram – many for free and some for sale for around £1-£10 a paper.

“If this year’s GCSE results are being based on leaked exam papers then the whole system for centre-assessed grades is not working and the results will be completely unreliable.”

A spokesperson for the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents UK exam boards, said summer 2020 papers had been used for the autumn 2020 series, which were sat by a small number of students who were unhappy with their centre-assessed grades.

“Exams are cancelled this year; instead teachers will be determining grades from a range of evidence and so there is no advantage to gain for students who are buying or gaining access to exam papers online.

“We would strongly encourage students to use only publicly available materials via our websites, in addition to those provided by their exam centre. Nonetheless, exam boards regard the sale or exchange of any of our assessment materials as unacceptable and take action to stop this wherever possible.”

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Everybody will be trying to do their best to assess their students as fairly as possible, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. In all circumstances, it is important that students observe the rules that are set by the school or college. We would discourage anyone from buying or selling papers on the internet.”

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