SINGAPORE: When former Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) student Lim Zhong Zhi was told to stay behind for a special briefing after he collected his A-Level results on Friday (Feb 23), he did not know what to expect.
“They told us someone stole our exam papers from a courier in the UK, and we were like, is this a heist movie now,” he said. “We always joke about what would happen if our papers get stolen. And now that it really happened, we were like ... wow.”
Zhong Zhi was one of the 238 students whose H2 Chemistry answer scripts were stolen. The scripts, which were for Paper 3, were stolen in the United Kingdom before the papers were delivered to the examiners. Paper 3 consists of free-response questions and carries a weightage of 35 per cent of the entire H2 Chemistry examinations.
The students are from four junior colleges: Anderson JC, ACJC, Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and Nanyang JC.
In announcing the incident, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) explained that the final grades for the students were derived through a projection.
Affected students will also be given the opportunity to resit Paper 3, if they wish. Those who opt for the re-examination will have the better of their two grades recorded in their result slip and certificate.
A "RARE SECOND CHANCE" TO IMPROVE THEIR RESULTS: AFFECTED STUDENTS
For Zhong Zhi and some of his affected peers, the opportunity to resit the paper was a “rare second chance” to improve their grades.
“They did mention that they will take the better of the two grades,” said Zhong Zhi, who got a B in the subject. “So there’s really no incentive for you not to take the second exam.”
“ACJC told us that our subject tutors would try their best to assist us,” he added. “And I think we’ll be even more committed to this retake, because if you know your results are kind of bad, that’s even more motivation for you to study even harder for it.”
A former HCI student, who did not want to be named, said she is also likely to retake the paper. She reasoned that despite getting a B for the subject in her school’s preliminary examinations, she had worked hard for the A-Levels and had expected to get an A for the subject.
“It would take a lot of time, but I would do it for my grades,” she said. “I do believe that I’d have done better with Paper 3, because 35 per cent is not a small percentage.
“There’s no harm, since we will be able to use the better of both grades.”
But if she had a choice, she added, she would not want to go through the exam alone, and is checking if any of her friends will also be retaking the paper.
However, other affected students said they were not likely to retake the paper.
“I wasn’t that good in Chemistry, so I think even if my Paper 3 wasn’t stolen, I would probably have gotten the same grade,” said former ACJC student Manoharan Ajay Anand, who got a B in the subject.
“Besides, I don’t think I have a chance to improve,” he added. “I took the A-Levels in November and the entire time (from then to now), I wasn’t studying at all.
“Those two years were intensive preparation and now I’ve had a huge break.”
The affected students also had no complaints about the way the situation was handled by their schools and SEAB.
“I was shocked at first, but impressed by how professional SEAB, MOE and the other parties were, in the sense that they assured us that they had our interests at heart,” said former HCI student Chan Yi Xuan.
A parent of an HCI student, who declined to be named, added that she was satisfied by the way it was handled. “In any case, she (her daughter) is not penalised because this is the grade we expected.”
STUDENTS NOT AFFECTED SAID IT’S "NOT VERY FAIR"; PAPER 3 USUALLY CONSIDERED MORE CHALLENGING
As for the students who were not affected, they felt that it was not very fair for the rest to be given a second chance, especially for a paper they felt was more difficult compared to the other components.
Students Channel NewsAsia spoke to - both affected and unaffected by the theft - concurred that Paper 3 is generally considered to be more challenging than the rest of the examination.
“I don’t think it’s very fair to everyone else, because they might not have done as well, or they might have done better than the rest who had normal papers, although I don’t know how else Cambridge could have handled it,” said former ACJC student Eugene Hadjisophocleous.
He also felt that as the theft was “quite a big deal”, the school should also have made a public announcement to students about the incident.
Echoing the sentiment, former HCI student Hu Yu Xin said: “We are not privy to the actual methodology. Maybe they should have told everyone about it, so it will be fair to all.”
Still, another recent graduate from HCI, Neo Ting Ming, said that while it was unfortunate that it happened, projecting the results was a good solution.
“As the setters of the paper, they would have known how hard or easy the paper was, and moderated and projected the results accordingly. It should be quite fair,” he said.
He added that Paper 3 would not necessarily have been the most difficult portion for everyone, as some people find it relatively easy.
“People would do differently depending on where their strengths lie, so it’s hard to say if their results would have been better or worse with Paper 3,” he said.
"MOST" WILL NOT CONSIDER TAKING PAPER AGAIN: HCI
For HCI at least, the school said most of its affected students have indicated that they will not consider retaking the paper.
"We are heartened that the affected students and their parents have been understanding," said an HCI spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Nanyang JC's principal Low Chun Meng told Channel NewsAsia that most of its affected students "have done well", and were calm upon receiving the news of the stolen papers.
"This is no doubt an unfortunate incident but we believe that SEAB has taken the necessary actions to manage the situation based on the processes they have shared with us," said Mr Low.
"For students who are keen on the re-examination, we will do what we can to help these students, be it in terms of providing consultations or access to the school’s facilities."