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‘Impossible’ question on Maths GCSE exam stumps 16-year-olds across the country

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Pupils were left scratching their heads over the task to work out the area of a shaded part of some circles. University of Manchester maths student Harry Surplus described the challenge as a “tough one”.

He tweeted: “A 2nd year BSc Maths students take on the last question of Edexcel GCSE Maths Higher Paper 1.

“A tough one, even I had to spend some time looking where to start.”

Youngsters took to Twitter to share their experiences of the final task on the paper.

Twitter user @Xenicz_ said: “The last question on the Edexcel GCSE higher paper 1 was absolutely ridiculous!

“If anyone actually got that one right then you are a genius!”

Fellow Twitter user @xfyz chimed in: “It was so bad O was tearing up for no reason when I got out.”

@mosesb318 added: “If a 2nd year Bsc Maths student is struggling with the question, how do they except us GCSE students to get it?”

One Twitter user questioned whether the question was appropriate for GCSE students.

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@TwinsplusTwo tweeted: “And they wonder why kids are being put off Maths. No way is that GCSE.”

Another claimed the question was no harder than O-Level questions from the 1980s.

@MulberryEllie said: “This was no more difficult than early 1980s O Level questions… Trouble is CSE’s and then GCSE’s have dumbed down the benchmark.”

Exam season started on Monday, May 16, and is set to last until June 28.

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Students are sitting GCSE and A-Level papers for the first time in two years after Covid disrupted schooling across the country.

Ahead of testing season, figures showed the number of counselling sessions for exam anxiety provided by charity Childline almost doubled in seven months.

More than 200 sessions took place in March 2022, nearly double the number of sessions in September 2021.

Childline staff delivered 1,734 counselling sessions to pupils worried about exam stress and revision in 2021-22, a 62 percent rise on the year before.

NSPCC figures from 2021-22 also revealed a two-month spike in exam-related stress during May and June last year.

This reflected pupils going back to school in March and learning that full public exams would be cancelled for a second time because of the pandemic.

Alex Gray from Childline said: “Our latest Childline stats on exam stress highlight the mounting concern felt by children and young people as they look to sit their exams this month.

“Children are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and with GCSEs and A-levels due to take place as normal this year following two years of cancellations, it is really important they get the support they need to manage any concerns or worries they may have.

“As well as speaking to a parent or a teacher, children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, seven days a week and speak to one of our trained counsellors who can provide non-judgmental support and advice.”

A recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found more than eight in 10 headteachers say their pupils are more stressed and anxious about exams this year than they were before the pandemic.

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