Engineering Exam Causes "Extreme Confusion"

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A third-year Civil Engineering examination is set to be subject to a ‘full and thorough’ investigation, following multiple complaints from students on the grounds of confusion, grammatical errors and ambiguity.

The paper in question was Part C: Health and Safety, which was sat on January 23. A letter from one group of students to the Programme Director, Dr Paul Fleming, explained the situation:

“Several questions either contained spelling mistakes or [were]written in such a way that it took three or four times reading it to understand what was being asked, on at least one of the questions the correct answer was also out by a factor of 10[…]

“As we sat down we did not have any answer booklets to answer the essay question, these were only given to some of us approximately 20 minutes into the exam.”

In reply, Fleming sympathized with the students and encouraged them to pursue an impaired performance claim.

“I am sorry to learn of this issue and apologise for the unnecessary inconvenience and confusion that you have suggested has been caused. Our internal QA procedures and external review of papers should prevent grammatical errors and ideally also should prevent ambiguity.

“I will look into this with the responsible examiner, and be assured we will action a fair outcome based on the evidence we can accrue and your claim form.”

Label spoke to Union Vice President for Education, Jayde Savage, who told us:

“It is incredibly unfortunate that this particular group of students has experienced this. These sort of mistakes can be hugely detrimental to a student’s experience.

“In light of this incident, if anyone wants to submit a Group Impaired Performance, I would be more than happy to support and am available at: vpeducation@lufbra.net.”

A sample exam paper for the Health and Safety module can be viewed here if you are a student of Loughborough University and are logged into the Learn learning portal. Although not the exact paper that is under scrutiny, there are examples even here of spelling mistakes, errors and questions that are not abundantly clear.

Label have found examples of such mistakes in questions 13, 14, 21, 29, 34 and most obviously in question 52, which does not even have a conclusion.

Dr Paul Fleming was unavailable today for further comment, but a senior spokesperson for Loughborough University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering wanted to reassure students that a full investigation will result in a fair outcome.

“We have received a number of complaints and if there is found to be any ground for them we do have the power to adjust the mark.”

Label understands that one internal and two external examiners write the examination papers. The School could not explain how they did not notice the alleged errors.

An additional email from one student addressed to all students taking the module suggests that similar problems have occurred elsewhere.

The message read:

“This is also applicable to the problems in other modules such as the lack of time in Geotechnics and the unfair content in SAM 4.”

One such student affected told Label this evening:

“Sitting the exam, frequent grammatical errors meant that many questions had to be read three or four times to make sense of what exactly the question was asking.

“Going forward, I hope that recognition of errors in the paper will lead to a fair outcome with regard to everyone’s final marks.”

 

Have you been affected by alleged ambiguity in recent examinations? If so, Label would like to hear from you. Please email labeleditor@lufbra.net with your story.

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