LONDON – A British high school student received credit for writing nothing but a two-word obscenity on an exam paper because the phrase expressed meaning and was spelled correctly.
The Times newspaper on Monday quoted examiner Peter Buckroyd as saying he gave the student — who wrote an expletive starting with f, followed by the word "off" — two points out of a possible 27 for the English paper.
"It would be wicked to give it zero because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for, like conveying some meaning and some spelling," Buckroyd was quoted as saying.
"It's better than someone that doesn't write anything at all."
Buckroyd said the student would have received a higher mark if the phrase had been punctuated.
Buckroyd is a senior examiner for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, one of several bodies that grade British high school exams.
He said the expletive was used in 2006 by a student in response to the question: "Describe the room you are sitting in."
The alliance confirmed the newspaper's story was accurate, but said Buckroyd's decision to award the student marks was not official policy.
"The example cited was unique in the experience of the senior examiner concerned and was used in a pre-training session to emphasize the importance of adhering to the mark scheme: i.e. if a candidate makes any sort of response to a question then it must be at least given consideration to be awarded a mark," the company said in a statement.
It said obscenities on exam papers "should either be disregarded, or action will be taken against the candidate, depending on the seriousness of the case."