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The Royal Chemistry Society says it's disappointed with the response of British examiners, after discovering that pupils needed to score only 18 per cent in a science exam to gain a pass grade.

Despite an abundance of educational quangos, inspectors and regulators - including OFQUAL - the problem has only emerged after six months, and Society investigation. The hour-long chemistry exam, "Unit 3", formed part of a GCSE science qualification, and contributed a third of the marks to the final assessment.

Students needed to score only 18 per cent to achieve a Grade C. But what troubles the head of the Society, after publicising the error, is that the examiners don't seem to care enough to investigate.

"Something's not right here, it's a Quality Assurance problem with the whole system," Richard Pike, head of the RCS told us. "It could be that the curriculum was ill-defined, so that when pupils saw the paper it was a mismatch between what was taught and inspected."

Pike is disappointed that the examiner pre-empted a thorough investigation into the cause.

"Instead the examiner commented that they were disappointed it was such a difficult examination. I'd like them to have said we have a QA issue to address in time for next year, rather than 'we're disappointed'."

The response came from OCR, one of what used to be called examining boards but are now called 'awarding bodies'. Even the name has become easier and less threatening.

The Royal Society of Chemistry analysed the results of chemistry examinations here (pdf).

Pike says a knowledge of science is essential in an increasingly technical society, as well as to encourage children to become scientists. Last year the Society drew attention to the quality of science questions set for 14-years olds including "What powers a solar-powered snail?". You can read more here. ®

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