Romeo and Juliet GCSE exam question cock-up may affect thousands of teenagers

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An exam board has apologised after teenagers taking a GCSE English literature paper were faced with an error in a question about Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet.

Thousands of candidates may have been affected by the error, which confused the two warring families - the Capulets and the Montagues - in the famous tragedy about two star-crossed lovers.

Candidates were asked: "How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt's hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?"

But Tybalt is Juliet's cousin and a Capulet, so the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.

In a statement, a spokesman for the OCR exam board, which set the paper, said: "We're aware of an error in today's OCR GCSE English Literature paper.

"We apologise and will put things right when the exam is marked and graded so no student need worry about being disadvantaged.

"We are investigating as a matter of urgency how this got through our assurance processes."

The question is one of two that students could choose to answer as part of the paper.

It is understood that around 14,000 students were sitting the paper and could have been affected.

England's exams regulator Ofqual said: "We are very disappointed to learn of the error in OCR's English literature exam paper today. Incidents of this nature are unacceptable and we understand the frustration and concern of the students who may have been affected.

"We will be scrutinising how OCR intends to identify and minimise the impact on these students. We will be closely monitoring OCR's investigation of how this incident occurred and seeking reassurance regarding its other papers this summer."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "Candidates have every right to expect that awarding bodies complete a full check on exam papers to ensure that they don't experience such problems.

"Similarly, schools and colleges have to pay thousands of pounds a year to examination boards and are entitled to better quality assurance than this.

"This appears to be a serious error and it will have caused stress and concern to candidates. Students need to be able to perform to the best of their ability and seeing errors in a paper can undermine their confidence.

"We call on the awarding body to take appropriate action to make sure that candidates are not in any way disadvantaged."

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently sitting GCSE papers in the annual summer exams season.

This includes new exams in English and maths, which will be marked using a 9-1 system, with 9 the highest grade.