VCE authorities apologise for phantom robot

THE VCE exam body has apologised and promised no students will be disadvantaged after a doctored image depicting a giant robot assisting socialist revolutionaries in 1917 was accidentally used in a history exam.

It is the second year in a row the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority has been forced to apologise following debacles in the end-of-year exams.

New guidelines governing the use of internet-sourced material in exams will also be issued after an altered version of the artwork Storming the Winter Palace by Nikolai Kochergin appeared in the VCE History: Revolutions exam.

The exam, which was sat by almost 6000 students, featured a doctored version of the artwork, in which a large robot - rather like BattleTech Marauder - appeared in the background of the artwork depicting events during the Russian Revolution.

History Teachers Association of Victoria acting executive officer Ingrid Purnell said it was disappointing the image had got through when teachers spent a lot of time making sure students critically examined and evaluated visual sources of evidence.

Ms Purnell said while some students didn't notice the robot, others wasted time trying to work it out.

''One student suggested it was a statue of Alexander Kerensky, head of the Mensheviks. Another student thought it was the battleship Aurora - it's clear several students were thrown by it.''

Yarra Valley Grammar student Shannon Dowling assumed she had not studied hard enough when she saw the robot. ''I went through a thought process something like this, 'What's that thing? It's definitely a robot. But it's on my history exam, so it's not a robot. But it can't be anything else. LOOK AT THOSE GUNS!' I stared at the image long and hard. It was extremely off-putting because you just don't expect there to be a mistake on your exam, especially one like that.''

In a statement, the assessment authority apologised for any impact the error may have had on students completing the exam. ''We will monitor students' responses and our chief assessor will review any responses which refer to, or are affected by the altered part of the image,'' it said. ''Students will not be penalised for discussing this.''

Last year, the authority apologised to Melbourne writer Helen Razer after the 2011 VCE English exam falsely attributed an article she had written to ''part-time journalist and blogger Helen Day''.

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