What is the truth behind the AQA GCSE Biology Paper 1 ‘leak’?

by Hayley Pearce | 15 May 2019

Students worried papers posted online meant resits or high grade boundaries

Students who are panicking over the alleged GCSE Biology paper leak that they may have to resit their exam have nothing to worry about, it turns out.

Two TSR threads were started by community members yesterday evening who had heard that both GCSE Biology Paper 1 (Higher and Foundation) and Combined Science Biology Paper 1 had been posted online.

But the papers had been posted on Reddit well after the GCSE Biology exams had finished at about 6pm.

Copyright infringement, not cheating

When asked how he accessed the papers, Reddit user TechPhil said: “I have my sources – all past exam papers are on my school's file server, just thought I'd reshare.”

AQA’s copyright and intellectual property policy states that: “All AQA materials are protected by copyright, and may only be reproduced with written permission.

“AQA materials must not be reproduced on third party websites – in any format.”

It goes on to say that schools and colleges can only download, print and photocopy materials for exam preparation within the school or college only, and “materials can be made available through an intranet or internal website only – which can’t be accessed publicly.”

In order for teachers to use exam papers for mock exams, AQA routinely holds papers back for a year before publishing them online at all.

On its website, it says: "Exam papers are available on our website one year after an exam series, so that teachers can use them as mock papers in the year after the first exam."

It adds: "Teachers can get past papers earlier, starting 10 days after the exam, from Secure Key Materials within e-AQA: our secure extranet."

In reality, some teachers get them earlier, but students should not be able to them and they should not be made public.

But while it is considered exam malpractice to post copyrighted papers online, there is no issue around cheating or leaking here.


Concerned students posted on TSR to vent their frustrations about the possibility of having to resit the exams or the grade boundaries being skewed if it was suspected anyone saw the exam papers before they were sat.

TSR member Baby_Mama said: “The papers have apparently found their way online. Is anything going to happen since they are online, could people have found this yesterday or before the exam and used them?”

And meemy123 said: “I spent ages revising for biology and to know people have seen the exam before and changed grade boundaries... very unfair.”

On the other hand, rockyball89 seemed quite pleased on hearing they may have to resit the exam, saying: “AQA took the mick in the combined paper today. They put triple content there in combined and also made it hard.”


But SarcAndSparks was there to reassure everyone: “AFIAK, there's no confirmation anyone saw the exam paper before the exam.

“A copy has been uploaded to a google drive, but it sounds like this is after the exam. It's still technically malpractice, but not as serious and shouldn't affect grade boundaries.”

Pete Langley, former teacher and study help director at TSR, said: “There is no need for anyone to worry about this supposed ‘leak’.

“The link to the Biology GCSE exam paper appears to have happened after the exam was over so there was no possibility of cheating.

“Once an exam is over many teachers will have access to the paper quite quickly. They shouldn't have it for ten days, but some will get a copy as there are so many in the school or college.

"Although they shouldn’t, some may even show it to one or more students.

“It's inevitable that the odd copy will appear online.”

Raquel Gómez Frías, AQA’s PR and social media manager, said: “Don’t worry – this isn’t a leak and no-one will have to re-sit. The papers on the Google Drive we’ve seen were shared after they’d been sat, so they wouldn’t have given anyone an unfair advantage. We wish you all the best for the rest of your exams.”

Yesterday, we revealed student reaction's to the GCSE Biology Paper 1 exam.

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