The Public Appointments Service has launched a comprehensive review of examination results after almost 1,600 nursing course applicants were sent the wrong entrance test scores.
The body, which carries out the tests to select mature students for nursing degrees, was forced to recheck 1,593 exams taken in mid-April after results with errors were emailed to applicants on Friday night.
The results are used to rank mature students when they are offered places through the CAO.
However, applicants noticed a range of mistakes in the emails they received. Some received other people’s scores, while others scored higher than the maximum being awarded in some sections.
A PAS spokesman told the Irish Examiner that a “comprehensive review” has been set up to investigate what happened.
He said the initial results had been withdrawn and the correct scores would be re-issued “as soon as possible” — most likely later today.
“The issue is, at present, being thoroughly investigated. The problem appears to have been caused by a mail merge error where the wrong fields were selected and included in the email.
“As a result, incorrect ‘qualifying scores’ were included. We are very conscious that this has caused great distress and upset to candidates... We can assure all candidates that there is no question of them having to re-sit these tests.”
Some angry recipients had earlier left comments on the PAS Facebook page.
Melissa Madden wrote that her score was not added correctly. “It’s a disgrace the results were late coming in, then they were calculated wrong, candidate [numbers] were mixed up, people were told they failed [the] job simulation exercise when they passed.”
Marie Ryan from Kilrush, Co Clare, wrote: “When dealing with people’s hopes and dreams you’d imagine a lot more professionalism and respect would be shown.”
The written examinations are multiple choice answer formats and the answers are scanned by computer to generate applicants’ scores.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors said it was alarmed and concerned about the issues which arose from emails sent to the applicants on Friday.
“We understand that the emails have now been withdrawn and we are urging the Public Appointments Service to immediately clarify the issues which arose, and to communicate with the students concerned as soon as possible,” the IGC said.
“Any incident like this undermines applicants’ confidence in the process and causes unnecessary distress and hardship to them.”
The PAS carries out written assessments for the Nursing Careers Centre of An Bord Altranais to help select mature students for nursing degrees.
Up to last year, interviews and tests were used to select mature nursing students at colleges offering places through the CAO, but it is now just based on test scores.
The tests took place in Cork, Dublin, and Galway.
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