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Articles > Student Life March, 13, 2017

What Happens When You Get Disqualified From An A level Exam

March, 13, 2017

Jake Haynes . Member since February 2017.
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“You’re a number, not a person!”

When you’re at school or college, this is what they might as well say to you. A number can be easily discarded. You can try your absolute hardest, but if you do even one thing wrong, they don’t seem to care.It’s not like that number represents a human being with their whole life depending upon passing their exams(!) It’s been nearly 2 years since I got disqualified from my law A level and As you can probably tell, I’m still bitter about it.

disqualifies from exam - notes on hand

Pic by Alex Carr

I can distinctly remember the nerves I suffered with for months on end. Revision, revision, revision… I’ve never worked so hard in my life. During mock exams, I got C’s and B’s which, for me, weren’t good enough. I wanted A’s.So when it came to exam season, I was bricking it. I felt like throwing up and running out of every paper. And my law exam was no different. It started like any other: I walked in, found my seat, waited for the clock to reach 9am and then started the exam… but it all ended up being for nothing.

Half way through the exam, a single yellow post-it note with only one piece of information fell out of my pocket. When I saw it on the floor I mentally kicked myself for forgetting to empty them. I had been completely unaware that it was still in there, but I couldn’t dwell on it – I had to get on with the exam. I was sure to make a point of the fact that I did not even glance down at it. But as soon as the invigilator saw it and picked it up, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

He took me to the exam office once the paper had finished, where they told me I would be reported to the AQA exam board. I tried to argue my case, but they weren’t having it. Instead, I got a letter through the post telling me that I had been disqualified. I couldn’t believe it! The punishment was so disproportionately unfair, and my Law teacher agreed. She was very adamant on getting them to lessen the punishment because she knew how hard I had worked, but it was to no avail.

“It affected my whole education, and the rest of my life as a result”

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The whole situation was made even more unbearable when my mate told me that he’d heard of a girl who had written notes on an entire subject all along her arm and received exactly the same punishment as me. For someone who intentionally cheated by writing a year’s worth of answers along her arm to get the same punishment as someone who accidentally kept a post-it note in his pocket is, to me, quite frankly despicable.

I’m not going to lie, I feel I bossed that exam. But what happened? I understand that I should have had some sort of punishment, maybe a few marks deducted, but no. Because I had one post-it note (which, in reality, couldn’t have given me more than 1 mark on the test) they disqualified me from the entire subject. To make matters worse, the information on the post it note wasn’t even on the exam! I didn’t and would never cheat, and I’d worked so hard all year, but they didn’t care.

It affected my whole education, and the rest of my life as a result. I had to do a BTEC in Public Services instead, all because of this. After studying Public Services, I’m now hoping to do a Psychology and Criminology course at uni, for which I have applied and received offers. But I’m still left with the knowledge that if they hadn’t given me a ridiculously harsh punishment, I would be studying Law at university right now.

I’m a whole year behind with my life, and it was completely unjustified. Thanks, AQA.


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  1. Name
    April 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Harsh yes but before the exam everyone is constantly reminded to empty their pockets. Can’t really argue when it’s your fault.

  2. Vicky
    April 7, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Why didn’t you retake the year of A-Levels?

    • jake haynes
      April 12, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      My english a level exam went very wrong too with miscommunication with our teacher. I ended up failing along with half of the class because of this and resitting two exams on top of the second year would have been too stressful. The teacher was complained and reported by the class and it is believed he was sacked. I did have a horror year.

      • Ayesha
        May 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm

        I think what she means is to retake the whole year, which is possible, just as some people take a gap year at age 16 and start a-levels later. A levels are tough, they are meant to be and it’s good to get into the habit of not relying too much on good teachers and becoming more independent minded. It’s good preparation for uni. I’m not sure why you felt that this disqualification was enough to stop you studying law at university, a law a-level is not required, in fact it’s not that useful because it’s the tip of the iceberg compared to what you need to learn at uni level, I know, I did it. It sounds to me that it might not be the right course for you though, it’s heavily exam-oriented and one of the toughest courses you can do. If you really wanted to do law it’s never too late, though, in fact personally I wish I had waited until I was older to do my course, mature students have a much better approach to it and tend to be more successful. The punishment does sound harsh in your case but there have always been strict rules about these things for a reason. It’s to send a message to all other students as well that cheating is not tolerated. One girl on an exam I took was disqualified because she’d left her phone switched on in her bag on the other side of the hall and it rang. I would say however, if they didn’t, they really should have reminded everyone to take the time to check pockets, remove bags etc and declare if they still had any notes before the start. Do not let this one mistake ruin your life as you are saying. As long as you are alive you always have time to make it up. BTEC is a well respected qualification and there are plenty of other routes to your ideal job. Just do a bit of research.

  3. Colm Grimes
    March 22, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    This is a very good article

  4. Mel
    May 13, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I feel bad for you. But there’s always a reason why things happen. I hope you enjoy what you’re doing now and take that as a life changing experience

  5. C Williams
    May 3, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I believe that’s uncalled for if it’s not even on the exam you’re sitting then it’s not cheating it’s obviously just an honest mistake. There is no need to disqualify someone over that. There should be different levels of punishment and this shouldn’t have when been punished at all.

  6. Danielle
    April 19, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I think that this is very unfair. It’s not right that the person who had writing all across their arm had the same punishment as the person who’s post it note fell out. There should be different levels of punishment.

  7. mira
    April 5, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    this is a really interesting article

  8. Babar Ali
    April 24, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I think it’s bad luck to fail in a level because it is very easy to study

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