J'accuse...! You: AQA. I accuse you.

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A letter expressing frustration about the AQA Literature Exam sat on the 25th May 2018, in particular, section B


Dear Sir/Madam,



You. AQA, I accuse you. I accuse you of failing to do your duty. I accuse you of failing to represent the ‘complexities of the individual student’. Students take exams day by day; revising for exams night by night... Yet They – we live lives day by day and sleeping night by night. That is how we should be living, right? Except we work day by day, and night by night. Sleep, everything living needs sleep; abiotic or biotic. My qualms, my friend’s qualms the whole generation’s qualms are specifically aimed at the English Literature exam sat on the 25th May 2018. I have no qualms with the choice of poem for the Love and Relationship cluster: ‘Singh Song’ – Daljit Nagra. I appreciate the challenges and difficulties and the surprise of this choice of the poem - it really will test a student’s ability to understand, appreciate and synthesise a writer's methods of romantic love. I would applaud the thematic approach to analysing multiculturalism through ‘Singh Song’. Instead, my quarrel is with the Power and Conflict cluster which repeats a question, and poem used previously - as the only sample question readily available to students to prepare.


“The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated” – James Baldwin. I accuse you AQA of apathy. To anyone with a hint of a conscience and social awareness, it becomes axiomatic that your apathetic approach to testing students smacks of a lack of effort or care towards properly testing a student’s comprehension of the severity and maturity of War poetry. The poem ‘Ozymandias’ is a marvel, a brilliant choice for this cluster. The reason I accuse you of apathy is a simple fact that you are ignorant, blind, and lazy. The first specimen papers released by AQA contain the exact same question as sat by thousands of GCSE students sitting your exam today (25th May 2018). This does not test a student’s comprehension of poetry; it tests how well a student can Google 5 words and spend 5 minutes looking at the indicative content for the comparison. Your exam AQA. My Exam. Our exam does not test our knowledge of 15 poems – it tests our ability to Google to a quick read.

You have power; I do not dispute your power, but I doubt your ability to function as an effective company; due to a blatant error like this. A blatant error like this clearly favours those who have studied the Power and Conflict cluster, in particular, the most famous and arguably easier poem ‘Ozymandias’ – if you had chosen ‘Tissue’ or ‘Prelude from Extract’ I would, in fact, be commending you and be feeling as smug as the Power and Conflict students feel about their examination. The problem does not lie with the new GCSE, it lies with the fact that the ’Power and Conflict’ cluster repeated a readily available question, not choosing one of the thirteen poems yet to be featured, whereas the ‘Love and relationship’ choice focussed on a new poem which had never before been used. The new GCSE aims to be ‘tougher, harder, more challenging’ but only for one of the clusters, it would seem.

 I am no examiner, nor an expert in any form of critical thinking – nor do I claim to be. I am just a student trying to balance revision, work and sleep, but with 34 hours of exams over 4 weeks – this may seem small or insignificant. But it is the reality I live in. The problem is the new GCSE and the old GCSE have the same stagnant heart: Limited knowledge. To expand on that the idea that the examinations only test the student on the knowledge in which one has been educated; thus making it impossible to ‘think outside of the box’. To a doctor with a patient with this problem: a stagnant, dying, barely beating heart; the solution is simple. The patient is hit after the count of 1! Then a 2! Then a 3! The patient is brought back from the jaws of death. The patient’s heart is rejuvenated; filled with purpose and intent. In this analogy, the old and new GCSE’s are the same at the core. The more knowledge I gain, the more apt I am to be able to conceive how limited knowledge I have and how in fact my own self-imposed ignorance.

I ask you one question to aid you in your response to our accusation. If such a dichotomy is present between the Love and Relationship students being worse off in terms of marks, and the Power and conflict students being better off, will there be separate grade boundaries? Currently, this appears to be the only solution. I have written this letter within such a paradox of education that has educated me, therefore my opinions on this blatant failure of trust may be considered brash or arrogant – but I feel as if I speak for those who cannot speak, that together we can show you just how unjust you made today’s examination.

I have accused you, and your answer I hope will satisfy the demands I – We have lain at your feet. As to examining is to test, and to test is to educate, I hope you will properly test our education. 

We have the honour to be your obedient servants,

I have the honour to be your obedient subject,

Joseph Bamford.