International Baccalaureate exams authority warns of disqualification after alleged leak

The authority managing the ongoing International Baccalaureate (IB) exams has warned it might disqualify any pupils involved in misconduct days after test papers were allegedly leaked online, sparking concerns of fairness among students.

A Hong Kong student told the Post on Saturday she was devastated by the apparent leak, calling it unfair to everyone who had studied for the test.

Almost 2,500 people have also signed an online petition, urging the IB to cancel this year’s exam or to ensure justice for students who did not read the allegedly leaked materials.

In a reply to the Post, the IB said it received claims last week that a small number of students cheated by sharing exam content on social media.

“We take all allegations of academic misconduct seriously and have identified students who took part in this activity,” it said.

The activity was identified as “time zone cheating”, with students who finished their exams sharing their recollection of questions to help others in regions who had yet to take the tests, which is prohibited under the IB’s academic integrity policy.

The 2024 edition of the IB exam takes place between April 24 to May 17. Photo: Handout

“Consequences for students identified in correlation with this misconduct include: not receiving marks for their examination and/or relevant subjects, and potentially the non-award of the IB qualification,” it said.

From links circulating on the online forum Reddit, the Post found the alleged leaked questions and answers for mathematics analysis and approaches (High Level) paper 1 and 2, as well as solutions for applications and interpretation (High Level) papers and (Standard Level) papers.

A downloading site showed that two documents – “Paper 2 Math AA HL” and “Maths AA HL Questions” had been downloaded by about 17,000 and 18,000 people, respectively, as of Saturday night.

There were also documents showing screenshots of a Telegram channel posting the links to questions for business management, global politics, mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry.

The IB said it had “actively worked to identify and remove instances of shared examination content online, and hold the students responsible accountable”.

“We will carefully review individual exam responses for cases of misconduct and otherwise mark papers as usual, to ensure students who acted with integrity are not penalised,” it added.

The Hong Kong-based student, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Post it was “a shock” to learn of the apparent leak after she took the maths exam on Wednesday, adding it would affect students’ chances of achieving the grades required by conditional university offers.

“Students from Europe and other areas would have had access to the answers prior to the exam, hence shifting the grade boundaries as most people who took the exam honestly would have had reasonably lower grades due to the difficulty of exams,” she said.

The grade boundaries are changed annually according to students’ performance and the difficulty level of the exam.

“It’s unfair as everyone had studied really hard for this paper only for people in other locations to take the exam with the answers already under their belt,” she said.

She said the IB’s delay in issuing an official statement had impacted her and her peers’ motivation to study and caused a lot of “fear and worry”.

“[It] instilled a lot of anxiety and disillusionment – whether the IB will cancel exams or whether everyone is forced to cheat to equalise the playing field,” she said.

The student said she had seen documents online alleging there was bribery involving IB coordinators in India and the papers were then uploaded by an alumnus in Spain.

A Post check found a Telegram channel named pirateIB involved in the alleged leak with more than 1,500 members had deleted what appeared to be the papers.

The channel administrator posted an apology to the affected students on Saturday and said it would no longer be leaking any exam papers.

“We would like to publicly apologise to all students who may have been affected negatively by the leaks,” it wrote. “This year, leaks were tried out as an experiment, thinking that it would be useful and well received by the community. However, it clearly seems there was a big part that didn’t seem to like it, which is understandable.”

The administrator claimed leaks could help many students review the exams at the last minute, similar to past papers, adding: “Although the methods used were perhaps not the most ideal (fighting academic dishonesty with dishonest actions), desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Another user on Reddit who is a student based in Greece said he or she saw the maths papers two hours before the exam and spent time memorising the answers in a room next to the exam hall.

“So we went into the exam and Oh my god, it’s the exam paper. We all laughed out loud in the examination room and started solving,” the person wrote.

“My moral stance on this is, if this many people have access to the leak, in order to be able to score my predicted score and meet my own expectations, I need to equalise the playing field. So of course I looked at the leak.”

The same happened with business management and physics, and the exam coordinator knew about the leaks, the person said, calling the incident “unfair”.

The Swiss-based IB diploma programme, which lasts two years, is an internationally recognised university entrance qualification. It was taken by almost 180,000 students globally last year.

The IB and Diploma of Secondary Education are Hong Kong’s two major university entrance exams.

The 2024 edition of the IB exam takes place between April 24 to May 17.



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