If you have done formal exams before, you’ll be aware of the strict procedures of planning and preparation that are carried out to make sure that everything runs smoothly. From having invigilators to having strict rules on what you can and what you can’t take into the exam, things going wrong, including actions like cheating, often don’t even seem possible during these exams.
However, you may be wondering what happens if the damage is done before the exam has even started. For example, if a national exam paper, such as a GCSE or an A-Level, is leaked.
In short, if a GCSE or A-Level paper is leaked then any candidate who has seen the leaked paper will be disqualified, meaning that they will receive no marks on that paper and maybe other papers in that exam series. Students, who haven’t seen the leaked paper, won’t be affected and so it is best to ignore it, if you come across one and report it.
Continue reading to learn more about the process that occurs when a GCSE or A-Level paper is leaked. This article will also take you through the consequences of seeing a leaked exam and tell you more about previous events.
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What happens if a GCSE or A-Level paper is leaked?
When it comes to a paper being leaked, particularly for a GCSE or for an A-Level, you may be wondering who gets punished and what the general consequences of it are.
If a GCSE or A-Level exam is leaked, the student(s) who has seen the paper will be punished. In this case, they will generally be disqualified from this paper and potentially disqualified from all of the exams for this GCSE or maybe even this exam board. Other students, who have not seen the paper, won’t be affected.
Even if the student, who has seen the paper before the exam, reports it, they will still be disqualified. This is because this student has an unfair advantage compared to other students due to the fact that they have already seen the questions and potentially had time to prepare for them. To learn more about this, check out this guide by AQA.
The punishment for the person that leaked the exam is much less clear. While there was talk of criminal charges being put in place in 2019 to deter people from doing this, it is unclear whether these were ever put into place.
Despite this, the perpetrator is likely to receive some form of punishment at least due to the disruption they caused. For more information about this, check out this article by The Guardian.
What happens if you’re disqualified from a GCSE or A-Level exam?
As previously mentioned, if you see a leaked GCSE, A-Level or other kind of formal exam paper, you will most likely be disqualified. However, you might be wondering what this actually means.
If you are disqualified from an exam, this simply means that you will receive no marks for the paper. Being disqualified may only be for that paper that you saw the leaked paper of, or it could be for the entire exam board, even if you didn’t see a leaked paper for other exams and if you didn’t cheat in any other way for them.
In being disqualified, it is also possible that you could be banned from taking all public exams, such as GCSEs and A-Levels, for a period of time, which could be up to 5 years. This is a much more serious punishment and is more likely if you not only saw a leaked paper, but you also shared it to quite a large group.
The next problem with being disqualified is that it can have knock-on effects for your future. This is because not only may you be prevented from getting some of your qualifications due to being disqualified but such a disqualification will also look bad for future applications. This is particularly a problem if you’re looking to go to a sixth form, college or university as they are more likely to reject your application.
To learn more about what it means to be disqualified from an exam and the consequences it can have, check out this Think Student article. Please note that while this article is mainly referring to GCSEs, it is also relevant information for being disqualified from an A-Level exam also.
What should you do if you come across a leaked paper?
As you have read about the consequences of being disqualified, it’s important that you avoid this. However, other than just ignoring it, you may be wondering what the best course of action is to make sure that you’re not implicated in any way.
Step 1: Ignore the leaked GCSE or A-Level paper
As mentioned above, if you did not see the leaked paper and you didn’t interact with it in any way, meaning that you didn’t share it or do anything with it, then you won’t be affected and you won’t face any of the consequences.
Due to this, simply ignoring the paper is the first thing that you should do if you come across it, whatever the reason this is, whether it is because someone has sent it to you if has simply come up on your social media or anything else. This ensures that you are protected from the negative consequences, and you won’t be disqualified. For more information about this, check out this guide by AQA.
Step 2: Report the leaked GCSE or A-Level paper
As previously mentioned, it is important to not associate yourself with the leaked paper and ignoring it can be a great way to do this. However, going a step further from this is to report the leaked paper.
For reporting a leaked exam paper, there are 3 ways that you can go about this. The first one is to simply report it to the exams officer at your school, sixth form or college. However, you may instead choose to report it to the appropriate exam board based on which paper was leaked, if you feel this would be quicker.
Alternatively, if you come across the leaked paper on social media, you can also use the social media platform that you’re on to report there being a leaked paper. For more information about this, check out this guide on the government website.
Step 3: Don’t stress about the leaked GCSE or A-Level paper
If you’ve come across a leaked paper but already done the right thing by ignoring it, not sharing it and reporting it, then you have nothing to worry about. As exams are a stressful enough time, there is no reason for you to add more stress to your situation by worrying about the leaked paper.
While this may be easier said than done, it’s important to remember that the leaked paper or question that you came across was most likely just a fake. This is because scammers can still make lots of money from releasing fake papers.
In fact, while you may want to take this with a pinch of salt, The Metro reports that some fake GCSE and A-Level exam papers have been sold for up to £4,000. For more information about this, check out this article on The Metro’s website.
Have GCSE papers been leaked before?
Despite there being clearly laid out procedures for when a GCSE exam paper is leaked, GCSE exam leaks are actual very rare. Despite this, as previously mentioned, there are many scams that pretend to have the leaked paper but don’t in reality and still charge up to thousands for it.
While these case might be very rare, a few have taken place. For example, in 2019, there was a security breach with the AQA GCSE Religious Studies exam being partially leaked.
In this case, the leak was circulating around Snapchat, although unlike some others, it wasn’t so widely spread. For more information about this GCSE exam paper leak, check out this article by The Guardian.
Have A-Level papers been leaked before?
Once again, exam paper leaks for A-Level exams are very rare. In the same way as for GCSEs, there are still many scams that will try to sell you a leaked paper, despite not having access to one themselves.
Despite this, in 2019, an A-Level exam paper actually was leaked. For the Edexcel A-Level Maths paper of 2019, two heavily blacked out questions from this paper were circulating publicly around Twitter and the entire paper (not blacked out) had been shared between a group of students.
Involving at least 78 students, this exam paper leak was more widespread and thus more serious than others. For more information about it, check out this article by The Guardian.
What is malpractice?
An exam paper being leaked is one form of malpractice. However, you may still be wondering what malpractice actually means and what the other forms of malpractice are.
When it comes to public exams, particularly for GCSE or A-Level ones, malpractice is anything that breaches the exam regulations. Alternatively, malpractice is also something that allows prejudice to candidates, compromises the process of an assessment or the validity of a qualification or a result or that damages the authority or credibility of an exam board or an exam centre.
To learn more about what malpractice is, check out this page on the AQA website.
What counts as malpractice for candidates?
Other than an exam paper being leaked, malpractice can occur for public exams in numerous ways both by students and by the exam centre or individual invigilators. Look at the following list to see some examples of what can be classed as malpractice for exam candidates.
- Possession of unauthorised material- This may take the form of a mobile phone or other smart device. However, it may also be something like a book in a closed-book exam or even something quite mediocre as a calculator lid or an opaque pencil case.
- Candidates talking, communicating or disturbing others- This one is quite a simple one as students should have practiced “exam conditions” where they are not allowed to speak or communicate even in in-class exams.
- Sitting an exam for another candidate- If you’ve sat a formal exam before, you would have seen that there is a card with your name, exam information as well as your photo at the corner of your exam desk. The purpose of this is not only so that you know where you’re sitting but also to prevent this kind of malpractice.
- Leaving before being allowed to– First of all, in the JCQ’s warnings, it says that candidates must follow the invigilator’s instructions, which this scenario would instantly be breaching. Other than that, there is a secure time that students need to stay in the exam hall for before they are allowed to leave.
What counts as malpractice for the exam centre?
Look at the following list to see what can be classed as malpractice for the exam centre or individual invigilators.
- Allowing candidates to leave before the secure time– If the invigilator allows a student to leave before this secure time, then they are also in the wrong.
- Failing to keep exam material secure– This may be in the form of handing out the wrong exam paper to candidates. Alternative, it could simply be in the form of opening a packet of exam papers more than 90 minutes before the exam is due to start.
- Giving improper assistance- Candidates aren’t allowed to be given more help than the regulations set out. Due to this, certain forms of helping a candidate, such as pointing out that the student in a GCSE Modern Languages speaking exam needs to ask a question by pointing at a question mark, would be considered malpractice.