An exam board has apologised after teenagers taking a GCSE English literature paper were faced with an error in a question about Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.
Thousands of candidates may have been affected by the error, which confused the two warring families – the Capulets and the Montagues – in the famous tragedy about two star-crossed lovers.
But Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and a Capulet, so the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.
In a statement, a spokesman for the OCR exam board, which set the paper, said: “We’re aware of an error in today’s OCR GCSE English Literature paper.
“We apologise and will put things right when the exam is marked and graded so no student need worry about being disadvantaged.
“We are investigating as a matter of urgency how this got through our assurance processes.”
Joe, 16, who took the exam today said he had found the experience “stressful”.
“Our teacher recommended that we did the Shakespeare first so I found the question: ‘How does Tybalt’s hatred towards the Capulets influence the outcome of the play?’
“Obviously this stumped me…so I was quite stressed out and probably would have answered better in a calmer situation.
“As we left the hall, there was arguments about what it should have been and a handful of people were in tears as this exam could stop them getting into sixth form if they get a bad mark. It was chaotic and definitely hindered everyone’s performance.”
Brighton College headteacher Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College said it is “hugely important” that OCR reassure pupils immediately that they will not be disadvantaged.
“It beggars belief that these things are not checked properly,” he said.
The question is one of two that students could choose to answer as part of the paper.
It is understood that around 14,000 students were sitting the paper and could have been affected.
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently sitting GCSE papers in the annual summer exams season.
This includes new exams in English and maths, which will be marked using a 9-1 system, with 9 the highest grade.
The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England said: “We are very disappointed to learn of the error in OCR’s English literature exam paper today. Incidents of this nature are unacceptable and we understand the frustration and concern of the students who may have been affected.
“We will be scrutinising how OCR intends to identify and minimise the impact on these students. We will be closely monitoring OCR’s investigation of how this incident occurred and seeking reassurance regarding its other papers this summer.”