Dracula and Frankenstein in Newmarket school exam blunder

Abbie Stallabrass found out she had been taught the wrong book two weeks before the exam

Pupils at a school were "horrified" to discover they had been taught the wrong Gothic text, two weeks before their A-level English exam.

Sixth-formers at Newmarket College in Suffolk studied Bram Stoker's Dracula instead of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Abbie Stallabrass, 18, said the "bombshell was dropped" three days before half-term, leaving them with only a few teaching days to prepare.

Start Quote

Our teacher came in and seemed unusually nice and chirpy, and then she dropped the bombshell. It was crazy”

End Quote Abbie Stallabrass Pupil

Exam board AQA said it was aware and pupils would not be disadvantaged.

Miss Stallabrass said the error was discovered by chance by another English teacher who was starting to prepare for the following year's course.

'Inadequate' school

"He noticed Dracula had been dropped from the curriculum and we should have been studying Frankenstein," she said.

"Our teacher came in and seemed unusually nice and chirpy, and then she dropped the bombshell. It was crazy. We were pretty horrified.

"On Friday another teacher gave us a five-hour intensive session on Frankenstein, which was incredibly stressful but it did get us up to speed with the story," she added.

Christopher Lee as Dracula and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster Christopher Lee as Dracula in 1972 and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster in 1931

The class had been studying the Bram Stoker text for eight months and Miss Stallabrass said she and fellow students had to rearrange their half-term revision plans to take account of the blunder.

"We are all very nervous about Thursday's exam," she said.

"We really don't know what to expect and two of the class are relying on these grades for their university offers," she added.

No-one from the school - which was rated "inadequate" and "a school that requires special measures" in an Ofsted report earlier this year - was available to comment.

However, the examination board AQA confirmed the school had made it aware of the mix-up and said: "Exam boards do change set texts from time to time, and where this happens we ensure that we let schools know.

"Where a school has taught the wrong text by mistake, we work with them to find the most appropriate solution so that students aren't disadvantaged.

"We have put arrangements in place so that students will be able to refer to Dracula in part of their responses and their answers will be marked as normal."

Look at it terms of theme. Appearance and reality - i.e., the way Frankenstein wanted the monster to look and how this contrasts with the reality. Science versus religion - to what extent should man (represented by Victor Frankenstein) 'play God'?

Aliss , St. Helens

'Appearance versus reality', while useful, is also a bit reductive. It can also be read in terms of blurring boundaries. The boundaries between male and female, (as Frankenstein tries to achieve reproduction without the female), between countries (the monster travels without difficulty over national lines) and between humans and the bestial are all systematically broken down over the course of the novel.

Sophia, Oxford

Since it's a closed-book exam, the students will need to learn quotations from 'Frankenstein'. Perhaps "'my dear sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew'" would be a comical and apt place to start their quotation revision.

David, London

Not only are quotes required for the closed text exam but also critics are required for any answers. Naming the critics is important as the examiner may not award marks for any critic's discussion. Above and beyond that taking note of the context, language, structure, form as well as other readings is what will provide the marks for the exam. There will also be heavy emphasis on the themes of the Gothic and the Romantic periods as well as the parallels to texts such as Paradise Lost and Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner which should always be cross referenced to Frankenstein.

Adam, Hampshire

This happened to me back in 1983! I was taught the Maths OA syllabus instead of A level: we only found out at this time too! Advice? Don't panic. I couldn't pass, which meant a different Uni, subject and career. I've retired at 46. Hang in there and do your best but don't panic. The Chinese word for disaster is the same as their word for opportunity.

Rob , Inverness

Frankenstein is a very gothic novel. In the laboratory scene (otherwise known as the creation scene), use of language is very gothic: "I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open", "Yellow skin... hair was of a lustrous black... horrid contrast with his watery eyes... dun-white sockets... his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips" (chapter five).

Annisha, Trafford

Do not watch Van Helsing, it is a rubbish film and completely inaccurate in terms of Frankenstein.

Joe, Aberdeen

Definitely watch Van Helsing because it's amazingly stupid/good - but not till after the exam!

Ruby, Manchester

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