fake exam papers
Ofqual has warned students to steer clear of buying fake exam papers on social media. Source: Frederick Florin/AFP

Ofqual is advising GCSE and A Level candidates to steer clear of purchasing fake exam papers being sold on social media.

The GCSE and A Level examinations are being held across England, and hoaxers have been selling exam papers online for a fee. Ofqual warned that students who enlist in their service could be disqualified from their qualifications.

On its website, Ofqual said: “Hoaxers are trying to sell fake exam papers on social media. We are advising students not to be distracted by these hoaxes and reminding them that anyone trying to sell or buy such fakes could be disqualified from their qualifications.”

Pre-pandemic, then Ofqual boss Sally Collier wrote to heads to warn that “sharing exam papers or questions, real or fake, could result in disqualification”.

She told leaders to prepare pupils for the possibility that claims about their exams could circulate online.

Sale of fake exam papers not a new phenomenon

For years, hoaxers have targeted desperate and vulnerable GCSE and A Level exam candidates.

Last year, The Guardian reported that a seller offered to leak AQA’s 2020 GCSE Biology paper 2, complete with the mark scheme. Papers from other exam boards were also on offer.

The sale of fake exam papers has caught the attention of concerned parents.

“Last night I received an email from my son’s school to say that they had become aware that he had been able to get prior access to the AQA biology paper 2 that he sat yesterday morning and as a result they were going to make him sit an entirely new exam on his own next week,” one parent was quoted saying.

Based on her research, past papers from AQA and other exam boards are readily available on TikTok and Instagram – many for free and some for sale for around one pound to £10 a paper.

“If this year’s GCSE results are being based on leaked exam papers then the whole system for centre-assessed grades is not working and the results will be completely unreliable,” she said.

This comes despite exam boards’ assurance that papers are “secure” and are not in general circulation.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said last year: “Everybody will be trying to do their best to assess their students as fairly as possible, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“In all circumstances, it is important that students observe the rules that are set by the school or college. We would discourage anyone from buying or selling papers on the internet.”

fake exam papers

Students – beware of fake exam papers being sold online. Source: Torsten Blackwood/AFP

Exam board denied allegations of leaked exam papers

Back in 2019, GCSE students took to the social media pages of Pearson Edexcel after claiming that their GCSE Maths paper was leaked online before they sat it.

Students said it gave those with prior access to the exam paper an unfair advantage. The leaked paper was similar to the actual exam sat by candidates.

One student remarked, “Can’t you just make it make a new one or annul it? Because this isn’t fair for those that actually sat [sic] the exam with their own sweat and their own brain.”

A Pearson Edexcel spokesperson denied the allegations, adding that their papers are secure.

Earlier this month, Ofqual announced that it will explore online testing as part of its plans for the next three years. The watchdog said adaptive testing could replace the use of tiered GCSE exams – where simpler “foundation tier” papers are offered to those candidates thought unable to attain high grades.