Pupils given ‘plagiarised’ question in GCSE Maths exam

Edexcel exam content copied from AQA textbook

Students taking yesterday’s Edexcel GCSE Maths Paper 3 exam got a shock when they reached the final question - which was an almost exact copy of one from an AQA revision textbook.

The question featured the same diagram, values and answer as one published in the textbook AQA Certificate: Further Maths. 

AQA's Certificate in Further Maths is an additional qualification taken by pupils who are expecting to get high grades in GCSE Maths.

The AQA textbook the question came from is a core revision resource for students taking that further maths qualification.

See if you can spot the difference between the two questions.

Here's the question from yesterday's Edexcel exam.

Maths question from Pearson exam paper

And here's the question from the AQA Certificate: Further Maths textbook, published in 2013.

AQA book

The version in the Edexcel exam removes two of the question points. It also changes the names of the question's fictitious towns and adds a third north arrow to the diagram. Other than those minor changes, which do not affect the workings or the answer to the question, it is identical to the one that appears in AQA's book.

Students were quick to take to social media, demanding answers from Edexcel.


Speaking to The Student Room, A-level Maths teacher Angela Duffy said that usage of a copied question clearly advantaged students taking both qualifications.

"Inevitably similar questions appear but in this case no numbers have been changed at all," said Duffy. "Identical questions should and would not usually appear."

"The question is adapted a bit, but obviously plagiarised," said The Student Room's study help lead and former teacher Pete Langley. "Students tell us time after time that when it comes to exams all they want is a level playing field.

"But here is a situation where students who have used that textbook and experienced that question will be at a clear advantage. What happened to the checks and balances that should have been in place to prevent this kind of lazy questioning?"

A Pearson Edexcel spokesperson told The Student Room: "This question is a typical and valid question to be asked in a GCSE higher tier maths paper aimed at a very small number of the most able candidates aiming for a grade 9.

"We can confirm that a similar question appears in a textbook for a qualification published by a different awarding organisation. We are investigating how this might have happened.

"We understand that students want to be confident in a level playing field and we want to reassure everybody that we have established processes in place to ensure no-one will be advantaged or disadvantaged.”

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