Exams body 'cannot investigate' claims of Leaving Cert leaks

Exams body 'cannot investigate' claims of Leaving Cert leaks

Confidential documents used by Leaving Cert oral examiners were leaked while students were being tested across the country writes Joe Leogue.

However the body responsible for overseeing second-level examinations said it cannot investigate allegations that the documents had been shared among students unless it is told of the school or location where the alleged leak occurred.

Furthermore, while the State Examinations Commission (SEC) insisted it considered “any allegation of inappropriate release of confidential material provided to examiners very seriously”, it also stated: “Having prior knowledge of the exact wording of the questions available to the examiner is unlikely to provide a particular advantage to an individual candidate.”

Copies of the documents at the centre of the claim were anonymously sent to the Irish Examiner newspaper last week, along with an allegation they had been circulated among students ahead of their Leaving Cert German oral exam.

One of the documents received was marked ‘confidential’.

This year’s Leaving Certificate oral tests ran in schools across the country for two weeks and were due to have ended last Friday, after the Irish Examiner received the documents.

The SEC confirmed the documents sent to this newspaper contained sets of questions used in the Leaving Cert German oral exam.

The SEC said 112 examiners conducted the Leaving Certificate German oral tests for 7,822 candidates across 429 schools.

“Information regarding the identity of any school in which the documentation may have been circulated has not been provided and this is preventing the SEC from pursuing the matter for the present,” the SEC said.

“When this information is in the possession of the State Examinations Commission it will be in a position to carry out its own investigation.”

Part of the Leaving Cert oral exam involves a student engaging with one of five picture sequences chosen at random by the examiner.

The picture sequences are used in classrooms during the two-year Leaving Cert programme. The current set have been in use since 2013.

“In preparation for these oral tests, candidates and their teachers naturally focus on thoroughly analysing the sequences and preparing for all possible lines of questioning by the examiner,” the SEC said.

“Hence there should be no surprises for the candidate during this part of the test.

“As an aid to the examining of this part of the oral test, the SEC provides each examiner with a large bank of questions.

“The SEC confirms that the material in the possession of the Irish Examiner is the set of questions in use at this time and each contains a bank of the order of 30 questions in respect of each sequence. Candidates typically respond to 4 or 5 questions in all.

“Accordingly, had a candidate access to the question sheets they would encounter 5 from 150 available questions.

“In this context, having prior knowledge of the exact wording of the questions available to the examiner is unlikely to provide a particular advantage to an individual candidate, as the questions are based on material used in class throughout the two Leaving Certificate programme and in preparation for the oral test as both the storylines and the possible lines of further questioning would be very familiar to all candidates through their preparation.”

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