Parliamentary Question

Mix-up of the GCE O Level examination papers for Mathematics

9 Nov 2016

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, Ang Mo Kio GRC

To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) what led to the mix-up of the GCE O Level examination papers for Mathematics recently and how fairness and objectivity will be ensured in assessing the 70 affected students for their final Mathematics grade.


  1. In 2016, schools could offer different O-level Mathematics examination papers to Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) [N(A)] students due to a change in syllabus. However, the topics examined under the old and revised syllabi are largely comparable. While the Sec 4 Express students are the first batch to take the examination under the revised syllabus, the old syllabus is still available for the Sec 5N(A) students.

  2. On 20 October 2016, seventy-three Sec 5N(A) candidates from two schools mistakenly sat for O-Level Mathematics Paper 1 under the new syllabus. This error was caused by their schools registering them using the wrong syllabus code. Upon discovering the error, the two schools and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) took immediate steps to ensure that the affected candidates would sit for the correct Paper 2 the following day. This was indeed the case the next day.

  3. Schools have processes in place to ensure the accuracy of the examination registration, and both affected schools acknowledged that such an error could have been avoided if checks in the registration processes were more thorough - especially in instances where two different syllabi were offered for the same subject. The two schools have reviewed their processes and tightened checks for future examination registration.

  4. SEAB is working with the two schools and the University of Cambridge International Examinations to ensure that the affected candidates will be fairly assessed in the GCE O-Level Mathematics Paper 1 examination. SEAB will take into consideration the circumstances of the incident and various other information, including the candidates’ performance in the school’s preliminary examination for Mathematics, their performance in the GCE O-Level Mathematics examination and the cohort's performance in the GCE O-Level Mathematics examination.

  5. This is a rare and unfortunate incident, and I assure members that my colleagues are working very conscientiously not just to make sure it does not recur, but also to facilitate a fair assessment for each affected student in this case.