Pupils have struggled to sit an online test used by universities to help select applicants for medical and health-related degrees due to technical issues.
Some pupils were reportedly unable to log into the system to take the two-hour BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) on Wednesday, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
Cambridge Assessment, the exam board responsible for the computer-based test, said some candidates “experienced difficulty accessing” the tests, but it said “most” were able to complete the assessment.
But school leaders have called for an explanation into what went wrong and what steps will be taken to ensure students are not disadvantaged.
Andy Byers, head of Framwellgate School in Durham, said he was “disappointed” with the online assessment system.
On Twitter, he said: “The student was unable to take the test through no fault of her own as their systems failed. I hope & assume they will not be disadvantaged by this.”
A number of top UK universities – including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London – accept the BMAT as part of their admissions process, according to the exam board’s website.
Students who encountered issues have been asked to report them to Cambridge Assessment and it has said it will contact exam centres on Friday to advise them on the support they will provide.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at ASCL, told the PA news agency: “It appears that there were serious technical issues today affecting the BioMedical Admissions Test which is taken as part of the selection process for certain university courses.
“We have received a couple of direct reports and are aware of many reports circulating on Twitter. It seems that students were unable to log into the system to take the tests. We are unsure how many were affected and what proportion were eventually able to take them.”
Test centres that have experienced technical issues today should submit details via this form: https://t.co/mRhWorbuwe
Special considerations forms for centres and test-takers are also available on our support site. pic.twitter.com/OQJaWMeMZQ
— Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (@admissionstests) November 3, 2021
She added: “This sounds like a very serious incident which will have undoubtedly caused huge concern and anxiety to the students affected and we expect to hear from Cambridge Assessment an explanation of what has happened and what steps it will take next.”
A spokesman for Cambridge University Press & Assessment told PA: “We are aware that some candidates experienced difficulty accessing their BMAT tests earlier today.
“Most candidates completed their tests, but we very much regret any inconvenience or concern that anyone experienced.
“Our priority is to ensure that every BMAT candidate has the opportunity to demonstrate their true level of ability. Candidates who encountered issues should report them to us and we will contact centres on Friday, November 5 to advise them on the support we will provide.”
He added: “We are currently working to resolve the issue and are not able to confirm how many people may have been affected, but most candidates have been able to complete the test.”