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Exam board red-faced after Shakespeare question error

The copy of Romeo and Juliet in Russian which was recently on show in Birmingham.
The copy of Romeo and Juliet in Russian which was recently on show in Birmingham.

EXAM board OCR has apologised 'wholeheartedly' after a mistake in an English Literature GCSE question about one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays.

The error confused the two warring families – the Capulets and the Montagues – in the tragedy about two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

Candidates sitting the paper on Friday, 26th May, were asked: How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt’s hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?

But Tybalt is Juliet’s short-tempered cousin and therefore a Capulet, so the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.

The question is one of two that students could choose to answer as part of the paper.

It is understood that around 14,000 were sitting the paper and could have been affected.

OCR describes itself as a leading UK awarding body.

A spokesperson said in a statement: "We apologise wholeheartedly for an error on Friday's OCR GCSE English Literature paper.

"To ensure all students are treated fairly, we will put things right when the exam is marked and graded.

"To do this, we combine feedback from our examiners with statistics to measure the potential impact on students.

"We are then able to make appropriate adjustments – including to the grade boundaries if necessary – to ensure no-one is disadvantaged.

"Once again, we are sorry for this error on one of our exam papers and we are investigating how it got through our assurance processes as a matter of urgency.

"We are liaising directly with schools, and advise students and families to talk to their teachers for further information."

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most performed plays.

It has also been adapted for the big screen by George Cukor in 1935, Franco Zeffirelli in 1968, and Baz Luhrmann's 1996 MTV-inspired version, starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

Exam regulator, Qfqual, said in a statement: "We are very disappointed to learn of the error in OCR’s English literature exam paper. 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.

"Ofqual does not see exam boards’ examination papers in advance of the tests being sat."

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