Test errors impede History applications

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Prospective History students were late in being told whether they had interviews this year, after the History Aptitude Test examiners mixed up marks and candidate numbers.

The History Aptitude Test (HAT) forms part of the entrance procedure for History undergraduate courses at Oxford University. Andrea Hopkins, a representative for the History Faculty, explained to Cherwell that “errors [had] occurred where markers had incorrectly transcribed the candidate’s number,” upon entering each candidate number and corresponding mark onto a spreadsheet. Each examiner’s spreadsheet was then compiled to create a larger spreadsheet for all of the 1613 applicants.

Oxford University Press Office played down the incident, stating, “It should be noted that the error only affected a small number of students.” However the History Faculty acknowledged that “even if only one number was wrong, it would put the rest of the numbers below it out of sequence”.

The History Faculty revealed that HAT markers had not initially checked that every candidate number matched the right result. They accepted that errors had been made, telling Cherwell, “Of course what we should have done was devote several hours to checking every single candidate number and set of marks between the big spreadsheet, the markers’ spreadsheets, and the original script cover sheets, to detect these errors.”

An official at the History Faculty explained that HAT examiners must “somehow slot in roughly forty hours of marking on top of their normal teaching and research,” and “had two days less to do it all this year.” She went on to add, however, that, “We will of course always do a total check in future.”

A spokesperson from Oxford University Press Office said, “The History Faculty apologises for not identifying the errors more quickly, but felt that it was of utmost importance to ensure that all candidates’ scores were confirmed correctly.” He emphasised that the error did not cause too much inconvenience, stating that “the delay in notifying candidates for interview was no more than 24 hours.”

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A current history student reflected on invitations to interview at Oxford, saying, “It’s better to come late than not at all.” He added, “Let’s hope these screw-ups in the History Faculty are a thing of the past.”

Another stated that the HAT mix-up was “Final proof that even the history tutors don’t give a shit about writing timed passages on American drainage ditches.”

University College undergraduate Thomas Cole remarked, “This is the biggest HAT scandal since Princess Beatrice’s outfit to the Royal Wedding.”