Students baffled by "impossible" question

Judith Welikala - Deputy News Editor 28 June 2011

Cambridge mathematicians have expressed their disappointment after the miscalculation of an equation resulted in an ‘impossible’ question set on an OCR AS Maths paper.

The examination board admitted that failed to correctly calculate the length– meaning the shortest route in turn failed to match the mathematical equation.

Miharu Obata, a second year mathematician at Pembroke, said: “It’s alarming how it might affect students applying for a place at universities like Cambridge, nothing how admission tutors pay attention to AS grades, and in Cambridge, specific module scores.

A third year mathematician, also at Pembroke, hoped the tripos exams would not face similar errors.

6,790 sixth students in total sat the paper on Thursday 26 May.

The ‘impossible’ question was worth eight marks and 11% of the paper

In a statement, an OCR spokesman said the exam board “very much regretted” the mistake.

“We would like to assure teachers, parents and students that we have several measures in place to ensure that candidates are not unfairly disadvantaged as a result of this unfortunate error.

“Because we have been alerted to this so early, we are able to take this error into account when marking the paper.

“We will also take it into account when setting the grade boundaries. We have sent a letter to all schools and colleges explaining in more detail what we shall do.

“We do apologise again that this has happened.

To help us understand how this occurred and to minimise the chance of such an error happening again, we will be undertaking a thorough review of our quality assurance procedures.”

Judith Welikala – Deputy News Editor