back to article Entire class fails IT exam by submitting in Word format

The 29 students of a computing class at a school in Lincolnshire have all failed to gain their diploma because their teacher told them to save their coursework in Microsoft Word format, which is not accepted by the exam board. Edexcel rejected work from pupils at Cotelands School in Ruskington who were studying for the Diploma …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Didn't accept MS Word?!

    Assuming it wasn't a movie or something similarly un-word-doc suitable, how could they not support MS Word?

    Even if you don't like MS, you've gotta concede that a majority of companies use it- and will continue to use it for the foreseeable future.

    Cue the Apple fans saying they'd not have had the problem if it wasn't for Bill Gates personally failing them...

  2. spegru


    While I'm all for open standards and have alot of sympathy for .doc not being acceptable - it does seem *very* harsh to fail these kids GCSEs because of it - unless it was a basic requirement of the submission of course.......

    Then again the teaching standard of so called IT Lessons in UK schools is undoubtedly CR*P and doesn't seem to cover document/file standards/formats at all!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    tough question these days

    "submit your work in a non-micro-crap propriety format, taking into account recent political and commercial activities in relation to ISO certification".

    Right choice though, fail them all cos their teacher is not up to the job... teach these kids they cannot rely on anyone but themselves!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Diploma in Digital Application

    You stick your right digit in

    You stick your left digit out

    You shake it all about...

  5. dervheid

    Surely the school

    should be putting this right, without the need for any extra 'effort' from the pupils.

    Along with sacking the fuckwit who clearly didn't read / comprehend the requirements for the coursework.

    Unless of course the requirements were never made clear, in which case that's sack the fuckwit at that end.

  6. It wasnt me

    I read this on the beeb......

    ...... adn thought there were a whole load of unanswered questions. Not to worry, I thought, ill wait till the reg covers the story properly.

    Where is it then? Youve just listed the whole thing from beeb. Come on reg, do your jobs. What were they supposed to save it in? Why do they need more lessons to catch up? Why werent they just batch re-saved?

    Is there even a story here?

    You used to be better than this. Whats the point in the reg if its just reprinting uninformed trripe off the beeb, especially on a story that actually has an IT angle.

  7. Paolo

    Evening tuition?

    1) File -> Save As -> [select some other format]

    2) Resubmit to exam board with grovelling note

    Why do they need evening tuition for that?

    Would be interested to hear what formats they do accept. i can't see Edexcel being an activist at the forefront of open document standard, but I'll be happy to be proven wrong.

  8. Neil Davis
    Gates Horns

    MS Word is the wrong format?

    In a word, PATHETIC. So having force fed our students with MS products, one is not allowed to submit documents in Word format? What did they want: OpenOffice ODT files?

    Or better still.... Paper?

  9. Martin Lyne


    ..the infallible edexcel could just reevaluate them after they've been converted.

    It's hard enough to get a fucking education, give the kids a break. Morons.

    (Although, I do promote open standards, but penalising people who are stuck in the MS sinkhole is not fair)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft = fail

    No further comment, your honour.

  11. Dave

    What formats are OK?

    While applauding the exam board for not accepting proprietary closed formats, I do wonder what formats they accept. I'd guess PDF, seeing as it's slightly harder to change than a Word document (which may be the reason for not accepting Word).

  12. Neil Greatorex
    Gates Horns

    Word (s) fail me

    As a resident of Ruskington.

    I've previously mentioned that my 8 year old, under the guise of ICT, was being taught how to create Word documents, but that is at the Primary School next door. I didn't realise it carried on into secondary.

    He won't be going to Cotelands :-)

  13. Cameron Colley

    Can't they just convert them?

    What format should they have submitted it in? Surely they can just convert the Word documents into PDFs or HTML?

  14. Optymystic

    A very odd attitude for the board to take

    In my experience, though it is fifteen years out of date, very few examination boards would put themselves in the absurd position that the students' assessments are being unduly impaired by the bureaucratic negligence of their teachers. While the board's requirements may be eminently justified, this does seem like a problem to which there is a glaringly obvious solution - accept the assignments in the incorrect format .

  15. Chris


    Damn right to fail them. It should be submitted as a PDF or PostScript file, accompanied by the source file in LaTeX format. Or is that wishful thinking on my part?

    More seriously, when I did a part-time degree in Computer Science, the lecturers insisted on documentation being submitted as LaTeX files. I was familiar with this format, as I was a self taught programmer already earning a living writing Unix software. However, it confused the hell out of most of the other students - but not quite as much as learning to program C on a terminal attached to a VAX running VMS. Perhaps surprisingly, this was in late 1990's when MicroSoft Windows was already the standard at every other technical college I was aware of.

  16. Ash
    Thumb Down

    What is an acceptable format?

    XML? OpenDocument? Plain text?

    Finger painting?

    I know we all love any excuse to bash MS, but realistically if a company refused to accept MS document types they'd go out of business.

  17. EvilJason
    Thumb Down

    Odd that...

    Odd that there has not been any lawsuits from this?

    I mean both the school and the exam board have a duty of care to the students and if a mistake like this happened because of the administration and not the students fault then they should be libel to be sued as they should have excepted revised work because of the extraordinary circumstances.

    If the exam boards stance is it does not matter what the situation is they should have got the work in the correct format and there is nothing they can do they should all be fired for negligence to the students.


  18. Gav H.


    Oh well, at least they've learned an additional lesson on accepted formats and proprietary standards.

  19. Paul Stephenson


    it's a shame the student's have suffered at the hands of a cockup by the school, surely edexcel could have done something here?

    what format was thier work meant to be submitted in then? if not .doc did they want it on paper? very eco-friendly...

  20. Skinny

    Sorry Kids

    OK, So I accept that the exam board had specifications for submissions, but to fail an entire school because of a teachers mistake is stupid.

    If it's just 29 students, exactly how hard would it have been for them to just open them in word (I'm sure they have a copy somewhere, if not I'm sure they know someone who does) and then either print them for the examiners to check, or re-save in the correct format.

    Sure they should have reprimanded the school itself, fined them maybe, given them some bad press etc. but failing to mark the students work is just picking on the kids, for a problem not of their making, they were trusting their teacher.

    Happy Christmas kids, you just failed your exam because your teachers to stupid to read the specs, and we're too lazy to spend an hour undoing their mistake.

  21. ratfox
    Paris Hilton


    Words fail me. How could such a stupid situation ever happen??

    Paris-level of stupidity

  22. Alex Harvey


    Does this seem a proportionate consequence to the exam board?

    Isn't it a bit like failing someone for writing in pencil when they should've used pen?

  23. Liam

    night school????

    why not just copy & paste into rich text or open document format??? why do they need to go to a night course?

    i take it the extra cost comes from the teachers salary?

  24. Adrian Midgley

    a promising sign, but ...

    what format was demanded?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why the hell

    should those kids have to stay into their own time (effectively punishing them) for someone else's cock up?

  26. Ryan Barrett
    Thumb Down

    Computer says no

    What a pathetic response from the exam board.

    Why, exacty, is stopping them printing off the exam entries and then marking them? Or allowing resubmission?

    Time to put an end to this sort of petty beaurocracy. Viva la revolution!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Real World vs Education System

    Jobsworths!! Once again, education fails use industry standards or use common sense. Surelly the exam board could simply asked the students to resubmit in PDF / brail / stone tablets?

    If I email a word doc to a customer that can't read it, they dont say "FAIL, GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK" - they ask for it to be re-sent as a PDF! Whats this teaching the kids? Work as hard as you like, it wont make any difference as we'll trip you up on a MINOR technicality and ignore the content?!

  28. moylan

    what format should they have used?

    as word 97-2000 files are almost universaly readable. my phone opens them no worries. what format should they have used? or did they use new docx 2007 files?

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Obviously a bug

    The school needs to debug their teacher that issued the illegal command. On the other side of the debate, the exam board should have found that anomalous amounts of data got rejected and asked for a resubmission in another format. Or they could have installed a converter themselves.

    This way the article is even more IT related.

  30. abigsmurf
    Paris Hilton

    Covering up incredibly poor results

    Edexcel have stated that they did receive all of the exams fine and that the they were all fully marked. Everyone failed simply because no one got a passing grade. This IS a school that is being merged due to it being a bit rubbish.

    It seems incredibly stupid for an exam board not to accept the Word formatted documents so I'm guessing Edexcel are the ones telling the truth.

  31. Leigh Smith

    What a crock!

    "We have offered evening tuition to the students to provide the opportunity for them to still achieve the qualification and a number have already taken this up."

    So the kids have to do extra work because of a teacher cock up? Nice. How about they just get the kids to resubmit their work in the correct format or just accept the Word versions and stop being a bunch of tedious jobsworths?

  32. Matt V
    Gates Horns

    Why exactly did they fail?

    Was it because, Edexcel were still using some legacy system that a team of consultants still hasn't been able to migrate to a 21st century platform? Or was it that, for an IT course, worshipping at the altar of Redmond is an automatic slap across the face?

  33. Benny


    Wait, so they did all the work already, the school cocked up and told them to save it in the wrong format, so now they have to do evening classes to redo the work?

    I think I've missed somthing here, cant they just resubmit in the correct format?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    File Format

    Seems that WordStar is the preferred format...

    Mines the one with WYSIWYG on the back

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    FAIL. But the bigger question is...

    ...WTF doesn't EdExcel accept coursework in Word format, given it's the most ubiquitous text document format on the planet?

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. MacRat

    What format?

    What format were they supposed to use? Open Document? PDF?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Perfectly reasonable

    Part of exam technique is you read the fscking instructions!

    Paris, just because

  39. david

    Are there other formats?

    The one with "I'm a PC" stencilled on the back

  40. Paul Young
    Paris Hilton

    Cut & Paste

    Why can't the pupils just Cut & Paste into the right format, or save their work

    as the type of document required?

    Or maybe they are only taught about M$ Word


  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It was pen & ink in my day, and a right hand suffering cramps. Never did me any harm.

    Don't know they're born these days, flog the lot of 'em.

  42. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    What's the problem

    I was always being put in detention and it never did me any good. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons the kids aught to be doing detention but are getting away with it. And if the teaher has to stay behind too maybe he will learn something.

    At least they are not Harrin-gays.

    Are they?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not word?

    Probably because if the exam board aren't using exactly the same version of word as the school the document wont look the same and some pupils may be failed because of this.

    Its perfectly reasonable for the exam board to say the work must be submitted in format X where X is PDF, ODF, Latex, Word version X or whatever, as long as the format is specified.

  44. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    .doc appearance depends on the currently selected printer driver

    Every piece of technical documentation for electronic components that I have ever seen has been supplied in PDF. The electronics industry simply does not tolerate the hassle that Microsoft inflicts on people who think .doc is a usable file format. Well done to the examining board for encouraging children to use portable formats. Only one school is in the news for failing that part of the test. Congratulations to every other school for teaching something useful.

  45. Doug Glass

    Massive Format Changer

    "File" > "Save As"

  46. Daniel Evans
    Thumb Down

    Well in all fairness

    Have you ever tried reading the Edexcel course instructions?

    Our IT teachers saw the light halfway through the course and switched to another board - at least we knew what to do.

    But even on the Edexcel course everything was in M$ formats - and I've yet to see a single school system which doesn't require you to use M$ Office formats for everything.

  47. Chubs
    Thumb Down

    edexcel tied to the hip with MS

    Not sure why they didn't want Word docs. Going to their site and searching for "submissions" yielded interesting results. They seem to be using SharePoint for their web services and I found this link from a quick search letting people know they like .RTF files and how the students will have an easier time of it if they use Word...

  48. Tim Croydon

    What format was meant to be used?

    What type of coursework was it?

  49. Hollerith

    What did the Board want?

    OpenOffice? .RTF? Given the near universal use of Word, why not it? Bizarro-land.

  50. A J Stiles

    Ha Ha!

    I shouldn't laugh, really, but I can't help it .....

    Sending someone a Word document is retarded at best (since you don't know for certain that the person you're sending it to has [or, in these days of increasing Mac and Linux uptake, is even capable of running] Microsoft Word at all, let alone the same version as you) and could be considered to be aiding and abetting piracy at worst (depending on how they go about trying to deal with the situation).

    *You* can open an .odt file more easily than *I* can open a .doc file.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Back in the days

    Before you were allowed to type course work, my history teacher lost every course work book, each with 4 x 2000 word essays. I still don't know to this day how she managed to lose 20 exercise books...

    I asked at the time, why I was being punished with extra work (and would probably get a lower mark because of rushed work) but got the distinct impression it would be more work to persue it than just redo it.. I hope the publicity around this case helps these guys get a reprieve.

  52. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    UK schools have been required to use OpenDocument since 2007

    It was a requirement from BECTA in 2007 - they're not even allowed to buy Office anymore. OGC will probably be coming down on that school like a ton of bricks, methings...

  53. darkmooink

    lucky kids

    i think they are lucky that they could submit in a digital format at all, my course (advance gce in applied ict) you had to print EVERYTHING out. if you made a web page, program, animation, video ect. then unless there was an obvious problem the examiners wouldn't know that we messed up. yes wrong file format = fail but no files = bigger fail. well at least they couldn't reject them because they were the wrong paper or ink

    mine is the one with 500 sheets of paper in the pocket instead of a cd

  54. Dennis

    Re: What format?

    Someone's a fan of The Apprentice. The required format is, of course, Locoscript.

  55. Tim Parker

    Oh please....

    ..most of you just shut up. Better still - STFU, read the slightly fuller story on the BBC

    and maybe have a dig for some information instead of this piss-awful whinging. This bloody story is badly enough reported that it's giving me a fucking migraine without you lot of sodding sheep taking it in turns to bleet "waaah - they should allow Word documents" "waaaah - they shouldn't allow Word documents". The most cursory of searches for DiDA source submissions reveals this (slightly old) document which may indicate what they wanted

    ..or not - who knows - but failing an answer, or more information, from the useless tossers at Edexcel or the schools in questions why don't you lot got off your arses and actually look.


    (Apologies to those who took the time to post sensible and/or informative information - this is obviously not aimed at you)


  56. Michael B.

    File Formats

    There is an interesting page on the Moderator's website regarding a "Toolkit" of applications needed to moderate the coursework, and Word isn't on it, but the Office Compatibility Pack is. Powerpoint is explictly mentioned as a fileformat though.

  57. Anton Ivanov
    Gates Horns

    Can the reg readers stop fuming for a sec

    I am making a guess here, however I would not be surprised if it the accepted format was Word from MS Office 2K while the school submitted it in Office 2007 aka docx.

  58. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    UK schools required to use ODT

    Since 2005:

    (Sorry, forgot to post this on my previous comment)

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Not following explicit instructions = FAIL

    Enough with the "why shouldn't Word be an acceptable format" whinging!

    Edexcel provides very explicit rules about what is and isn't acceptable ( Edexcel says that you will FAIL if you don't follow the rules. The students didn't follow the rules. Why should anyone give Edexcel a hard time about giving them an automatic fail? Reserve your wrath for the teacher who couldn't be bothered to read the rules.

    (I'm a university prof, so anonymous for obvious reasons...)

  60. Ian S


    How about a properly formated XML fiel with a supporting CSS 2.1 file?

  61. Anonymous Coward


    I work in a school that just had the same thing.

    Our teacher realised we couldnt send in .doc, and had to quickly change all the documents to PDF before sending - fucking nightmare.

    But, at least we didnt get this sort of bad publicity for actually sending them!

    Shame on the teachers really for not actually reading what the exam board accepts!

    Would you hand your degree on fingerpainting? Read, what, they, want.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    @ UK schools have been required to use OpenDocument since 2007


    Complete rubbish.

    I work at a school, and we aren't required " to use OpenDocument since 2007 " - You can use any software you like to create the work, just as long as it is submitted in the right format.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Accepted formats:


    "Content must be submitted to the exam board via an e-portfolio. Only the following formats will be permitted.

    (Microsoft PowerPoint) .ppt

    (Adobe Acrobat) .pdf

    (Macromedia Shockwave) .swf

    (Web Pages) .htm and html

    ePortfolio .zip"

    Paris - because she knows what to do with a zip.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with paper?

    Call me a Luddite but what's wrong with simply printing the documents and submitting them on paper? Put simply there is no truly reliable electronic document format in widespread use. MS Word format is actually a family of mutually incompatible file formats covered by a thin veneer that is import filters. Anyone who has created a document on one version of Word and subsequently opened it on another only to find that all the margins and page breaks are in different places knows this only too well.

    Adobe PDF used to be quite reliable but seems to be getting flakier with each revision to the standard. Multilingual documents used to work reasonably well even if support for the relevant languages weren't installed, not now. Added to which each new version of the spec needs a new version of Acrobat which is always bigger and pesters you to upgrade more than the last one.

    Don't get me started on postscript - my postscript printer quite happily prints documents that the likes of ghostscript can't make any sense out of.

    For something like coursework papers that must be readable and it isn't really acceptable to go back asking for a version that you can read (lest people abuse the system to gain a sneaky extension) you need to remove these technical issues. Paper printouts resolve the problem nicely.

  65. Mark Tillotson


    Thanks Tim, reading the requirements its clear what the issue of formats is crucial to being assessed fairly. Presumably this was the only school to fail to follow the submission requirements, and equally clearly that is the issue here, not the poorly represented above holy wars!

  66. Alex Wright

    Seems straight forward to me

    “Students will present their work in an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio). They will need to understand the difference between document creation and document publication and to distinguish between file formats appropriate for document creation and read-only file formats appropriate for viewing. Students will be expected to present ePortfolio content in a format appropriate for viewing at a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels.”

    “The ePortfolio must be constructed so that its contents can be accessed using fifth generation or equivalent web browsers, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5 or Netscape Navigator version 5.”

    So it must be in HTML

  67. Michael B.

    The relevant lines from the 07 - 08 Information Manual

    6.3 eportfolio submission


    "The eportfolio must be self-contained and constructed so that its contents can be accessed via the Moderator’s Toolkit.

    (For further information about the technical specification for eportfolios and the Moderator’s Toolkit please visit the DiDA qualifications section of the Edexcel website at

    Any eportfolios that do not adhere to the technical specification will not be moderated."

    Since the Word Viewer is not in the Toolkit I think they are pretty much in the right for rejecting these submissions. Thought they probably could have got away with "File:Save As: HTML" within Word for a crappy but technically correct submission.

  68. Torben Mogensen

    Mindless bureaucrats

    I can't really see this being the student's fault, if they were told to use Word by their teacher. Once the source of the problem was found, the exam board should have allowed the school to convert the Word files into whatever format is required (PDF, probably). Anything else is just mindlessly sticking to rules even when this is clearly the wrong thing to do.

    Obviously, the school in question should get a reprimand, which they can pass on to the teacher, but I can't see this as grounds for firing anyone.

    But I can well understand not accepting Word: There are so many incompatible file formats for different versions of Word that you can't be sure to read the files. If you allow Word files, you will surely get .docx files, which requires the newest version of Word to read, and you can't expect all examiners to own this.

  69. n


    the clue to the file format was obviously in the company name:

    ed excel (short for education by excel spreadsheet)

    The funny thing is the markers don't even bother to open the coursework, it's more efficient to post out the qualification certificates and those intelligent enough to 1. open the envelope and 2. read what it says, have automatically passed.

    Some say the education system is dumbing down...That's why articles like this one are so useful :)

  70. Anonymous Coward

    Train as you mean to play

    Honestly Tim

    You are so unreasonable.

    What relevance has deciphering a load of bureaucratic, poorly written instructions got to do with the modern shiny world of IT? We need to train our people to live in the real world, where software does what it is supposed to do and customers never reject bids because they didn't like the font we used.

    Mine is the one from the 1960's film ...

  71. joe K

    Makes sense...

    Tim appears to be right. From the link he posted,

    "Students will present their work in an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio). They will need to understand the difference between document creation and document publication and to distinguish between file formats appropriate for document creation and read-only file formats appropriate for viewing. Students will be expected to present ePortfolio content in a format appropriate for viewing at a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels."

    It makes sense that failing to submit a read-only file format meant that the students had not grasped the concept of 'document publication' in the first place, hence deserved to fail their 'digital applications' module. It is no different to failing a music exam because you wrote a composition using do reh mi etc rather than a proper music notation scale, failing an engineering lab report because you neglected to explicitly show your section headers ( happened to me a few years ago, still smarting from that ) , or failing a maths exam because you insisted on using base 27 when the questions are given in decimal format. Tough luck, but understandable for a module related to computing.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Source of the files

    The place to look for the specification is here:

    As far as I can recall we were told that moderators were intially not allowed to use Word due to the risk of a virus.

    I did raise the issue about using Open Source software (such as OpenOffice, the GIMP, Inkscape and so on), but never received a direct answer.

  73. Chris

    File formats?

    When I was a lad, not only were official theses and dissertations required to be submitted in hard copy, on acid-free paper, but with very specific margin requirements as well. If a single page had a map, chart, or diagram that exceeded the margin, the entire paper was rejected. On the other hand, if you cut it down to fit the margin, it would be accepted, even if the "edit" rendered it into complete nonsense. I.e. they didn't give a flying fsck about the content, as long as it fit into their mold. I would expect no different from any accredited educational institution, on either side of the pond.

    It doesn't matter what their teacher told them. They are responsible for knowing the requirements and following them.

  74. Joe

    I think you should all apologise to Tim Parker...

    ...and I want your submissions as REM statements saved on audio cassette from a ZX81.

  75. Dazed and Confused

    Did the students read the exam paper?

    Did the exam paper say something like,

    Please submit your answer in "XYZ" format?

    And the students just choose to follow the teachers suggestion instead?

    Rule 1 of doing exams.

    Read the damn question!

  76. Martin
    Thumb Down

    From what I can remember...

    ...when I was forced to do the (pitifully undemanding) "AiDA" coursework, it was made very clear in the Edexcel instructions that everything had to be submitted as a PDF or as an HTML file.

    Students are fools. Teacher's even worse.

  77. Pierre

    "why it won't accept Word,"

    Because it's crap

    Because it's proprietary

    Because it's closed

    Because it's ridiculously expensive

    Because it would force a crappy, closed, proprietary and expensive piece of software on the correctors.

    Because .doc is not one but a dozen different (and not fully compatible) formats, not to mention .docx.

    Because it has never been intended to be a printout format.

    Because they run the school, so they decide which format they accept or not.

    Choose your reason, they're all good.

  78. mittfh

    Aarrgghh!! Not DiDA!!!

    I briefly taught DiDA, before realising almost any other career could offer greater job satisfaction.

    Each Unit of AiDA / CiDA / DiDA is worth one GCSE.

    One Unit = AiDA (Award in Digital Applications for IT Users)

    Two Units = CiDA (Certificate ~)

    Four Units = DiDA (Diploma ~)

    Work is not printed, but supplied in the form of an e-portfolio (i.e. offline website).

    2/3 of the time spent on each Unit is supposed to be ramming home the skills needed to complete the SPB (Summative Project Brief - i.e. the project). When the pupils work on the SPB, they're supposed to do so relatively independently, with the teacher acting purely as line manager. Any guidance the teacher gives them whilst working on the project is supposed to be reflected in the marks awarded.

    Oh, and the pupils are supposed to maintain an accurate project plan, updating it whenever their schedule changes.

    And, even better, record all sources used (e.g. the actual image URL, not which inevitably clogs up the majority of pupils' sources tables!) - and how they have sought permission from copyright holders if they've ignored EdExcel's advice to only use public domain stuff...

    Everyone has to start off with Unit 1: Using ICT, which predictably enough focusses heavily on spreadsheets and databases. Really motivating stuff - not!

    Evidently this batch of pupils weren't introduced to the DiDA website - where, in addition to the SPBs themselves, there are also prominent links to the "Moderator's Toolkit" - i.e. the acceptable file formats. Bizarrely, they'll accept almost every MS Office file format apart from .doc - and have IE and FF listed as web browsers...

    Moderator's Toolkit:


    The SPB themes are a misguided attempt to appeal to the majority of children:

    Sep 06: Five a Day (as if they're not already getting enough of that in Food Technology!)

    Sep 07: Preparing publications for a charity dance marathon

    Sep 08: Preparing publications to assist foreign exchange students

  79. Alex Smith

    Same happened at my school...

    This has also happened at the school I go to(see - most of the 190 students who took the course failed it.

  80. Steve

    A fully deserved FAIL

    If I took an English paper and answered every question in Spanish, I would FAIL.

    If the work is not submitted in the prescribed format, then you FAIL.

    This is not the fault of the exam board and is entirely the fault of the school. It's utterly retarded to suggest that they "should just accept the work" - the format was specified and the information freely available and yet it was ignored.

    As for those wondering about why they would need extra tuition, if the teacher was too thick to get them to do their work in the correct format, then there's no telling what else he might have taught them incorrectly.

  81. David Broadbent

    Compatibility Pack

    But their website does list them MS Office compatibility pack as being installed on the moderators PCs. Therefore would it not be reasonable to suppose that this suggests the MS Office must be installed and office documents can be read?

    EdExcel have a pretty poor reputation at the best of times and I feel that they may be pushing their luck with this.

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By Implication

    if you install the Compatibility Pack, you need to have an office product, so you can read doc files?

    see below

    By installing the Compatibility Pack in addition to Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003, you will be able to open, edit, and save files using the file formats new to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007. The Compatibility Pack can also be used in conjunction with the Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003, Excel Viewer 2003, and PowerPoint Viewer 2003 to view files saved in these new formats. For more information about the Compatibility Pack, see Knowledge Base article 924074.

    Note: If you use Microsoft Word 2000 or Microsoft Word 2002 to read or write documents containing complex scripts, please see for information to enable Word 2007 documents to be displayed correctly in your version of Word.

    Administrators: The administrative template for the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint converters contained within the Compatibility Pack is available for download.

    Update: The Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack Service Pack 1 (SP1) is available here.

    Top of page

    System Requirements

    Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000 Service Pack 4; Windows Server 2003; Windows Vista; Windows XP Service Pack 1; Windows XP Service Pack 2

    Recommended Microsoft Office programs:

    Microsoft Word 2000 with Service Pack 3, Microsoft Excel 2000 with Service Pack 3, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 with Service Pack 3

    Microsoft Word 2002 with Service Pack 3, Microsoft Excel 2002 with Service Pack 3, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2002 with Service Pack 3

    Microsoft Office Word 2003 with at least Service Pack 1, Microsoft Office Excel 2003 with at least Service Pack 1, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 with at least Service Pack 1

    Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003

    Microsoft Office Excel Viewer 2003

    Microsoft Office PowerPoint Viewer 2003

  83. Douglas Lowe
    Thumb Down


    While it's quite right that the teachers should have RTFM, at the same time edexcel accept excel spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations. Surely the .doc format is as much of a standard format as these; plus, if you can read any of these formats you're equally likely to be able to read the others. Seems to me that edexcel are being pointlessly, and inconsistently, nit-picky.

  84. Daniel B.


    According to the link, they accept PDF. It is pretty reasonable to ask this, as PDF isn't easy to alter, and you can always use a digital signature with that as well, to make the whole thing tamper-proof.

    Anyone thinking that .doc is "teh standard" (or should be) is deluded in thinking that every single business uses MS Office, or even Windows. The only file format I know of being truly multi-platform is PDF, or maybe LaTeX.

    That said, Edexcel should've let them resubmit in PDF, though.

  85. Fluffykins Silver badge

    And I'll bet they call it


  86. Anonymous Coward


    What the fuck... How can these morons justify rejecting a whole bunch of exams.

    I could understand having the school resubmit them but to reject the entire batch is just crazy.

    This teacher should be fired immediately for being some kind of retard.

    I know most teachers just read notes from a book most of the time without even needing to think but this just takes the piss !

  87. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    More likely they want it in punched paper tapes

    EIA coding only ISO coded paper tapes will be rejected

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Train as you mean to play

    "We need to train our people to live in the real world, where software does what it is supposed to do and customers never reject bids because they didn't like the font we used."

    Actually, if you ever get involved in submitting a bid or proposal to a customer electronically you'll find that most times the customer will specify one or a small number of formats (sometimes including fonts) to be used - bids not in the correct format will be normally be rejected.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe the problem is that- its difficult to make a Word file read-only, and they dont want accused of editing a students tetx.

    just a thought

  90. Anonymous Coward

    Ah, it seems

    the teachers have a Java Runtime Exception. So how about just giving them a .jar file with .doc in it... not as if IT "teachers" would know how to open one of those...

  91. Robbie Simpson

    Very fond of the web at Edexcel...

    Note that they aren't actually any text formats on Edexecel lists, with the nearest thing being html.

    So there are no accepted formats designed for print display.

  92. evilbobthebob
    Thumb Down

    As an Applied ICT A-Level student

    I can't say I'm surprised. Whatever the truth is (the kids were failed because their work was rubbish/it was the wrong format/the examiners are lazy) the way 'IT' is taught in schools is awful. Edexcel's IT course papers are verging on the impossible to decipher, or are so vague that you feel you could get marks by doing anything at all.

    Then there's the course content...Databases (MS Access) Spreadsheets (MS Excel) and naff 'eportfolios' made in Dreamweaver. The multimedia unit would be ok if I had actually been given any experience in using Flash beforehand.


  93. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    That'll teach the little bastards heheh

    Hoody glue-sniffing losers the lot of em. Bundle em up n chuck em in the canal along with those bastard wrinklies doing fuck-all and getting paid for it with our tax-money. Edexcel is doing a great job keeping the smelly fucks out of our jobs in this day n age.

    And Back in the Days has the nerve to ask how a teacher can lose 20 exercise books. Har bloody har... 20 books is nothing. We used to chew up 200 exercise books with our morning milk but christ knows why we ever got that in the first place..... In my days we had classes of 100 snotty-nosed brats and our teachers used to lose our books regularly cos they couldn't be arsed marking em. 20 piffling exercise books!

    (Paris cos she's a bit of all right)

  94. xjy
    Paris Hilton


    shit i forgot to submit my comment in Word....

    (Paris cos she's into (geddit??) universal formats... )

  95. wsm

    Another example of...

    It's not the technology we struggle with, it's the users, or, more likely, the management of same.

  96. Matthew

    What about DOCX?

    If you look at the Edexcel list of allowed file formats, you'll see "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" listed. This free download allows users of Office 2003 to work with Office 2007 XML (DOCX, PPTX, XLSX, etcx.) files. If any of the "failed" students isn't allowed to re-submit their documents without penalty, I'd say they have a good case because of this item on the list.

  97. Luther Blissett

    This'll learn them

    Students should submit the work in as many different file formats as possible. The work will not be marked. Marks will be awarded per file format submitted.

    [Obviously somebody will have to open the files to ensure no white JPG squares, pr0n, or other cheats. However, that task (and that of totalling the marks) should be well within the capabilities of the exam board's sub-contractors.]

    Submissions in SGML will be awarded top marks automatically. [If you don't know why, your IT education is lacking.] Students submitting their own DTDs will qualify for admission on HE IT courses automatically.

  98. herman Silver badge

    MS Office Compatibility Pack???

    One of those Edexel links goes here:

    which is none other than:

    Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats

    Soooooo, much as I dislike MS, I would think that the teacher was correct in allowing the class to use MS Word!

  99. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Bluff calling...

    "...and I want your submissions as REM statements saved on audio cassette from a ZX81.."

    Yup. I can do that. Where should I post it?

  100. Anonymous Coward


    Im sorry but in these days what person does not have a copy of word!!!! or at least open office.

  101. Andus McCoatover
    Thumb Up

    Sod my guts...

    Jeez, in my day I used a "quill" (nib) pen and an ink reservoir in the desk.

    I kid you not, as I was 'Ink Monitor' at the time - task - to ensure every pupil had ink in their reservoir. Don't wanna put that on my CV, tho'.

    Plus, pink (!!??) blotting paper for use before submitting it to the blue-fingered teacher.

    Bugger me sideways, can't these fuc*kers open/print a sodding document??!! Teachers? MFI retards, more likely.

  102. Lukin Brewer

    OK, so it's there in black and white...

    but some of Edexcel's reasoning escapes me. If Word is not allowed, why Powerpoint? And why Shockwave Flash??? It sounds like they are begging to have coursework that displays itself on their browser window two words at a time, with lots of unnecessary transition effects, accompanied by a flame background and a bleepy techno soundtrack, and slows their PC to a crawl.

    And how about revenge as a dish served with a Flash-borne rootkit? If Edexcel haven't thought their security out, the kids might end up awarding *themselves* top marks. :-)

  103. James O'Shea

    re aj stiles and accepted formats

    Mr Stiles... I usually use a Mac, and I've used MS Word on Macs since 1985. In those days there were only two word processors on Macs, the free one and the one from Microsoft, and the one from Microsoft was noticeably better than the free one. Which is why I forked over cash to use it. Microsoft no longer occupies the high ground; I have Office 2004 and 2008 on my main Mac but usually use Pages instead because Pages is superior to Word for the doing the kind of work I do. You should note that Pages will export to .DOC format... and to .RTF, and to .PDF. _All_ Mac applications which can print at all can print to .PDF, that's part of the standard printing package. (This is over and above Pages' ability to export to .PDF.) In addition, TextEdit, which ships with the OS, can read and write .DOC format files, so you don't even have to buy Pages.

    It would have taken perhaps five seconds to generate a .PDF from Pages, or from Word, or, indeed, from any Mac application which can print.

    I don't know about Linux; tuxers can answer as to how simple it would have been for them to have produced a .PDF or perhaps a .HTM file.

    Failing someone for the wrong format, when it would have been trivial to get the correct format (open all docs, export to .PDF or .HTM...) is utterly ridiculous.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    What would happen if they submitted their papers in some crafty HTML that rendered fine on, say, IE4 and FF1 but not the more recent versions?

    This bunch of monkies don't even support .txt! FAIL!!

  105. Mike Lovell


    "Odd that there has not been any lawsuits from this?"

    They tried to serve them with the papers, but the exam board said they were in the wrong format...

    A-thank-you, I'm here all week.

  106. Snert Lee

    Odd choices.

    Does seem rather strange that the Moderator's Pack includes viewers for Excel and PowerPoint, as well as the MS Office Compatibility Pack, but no viewer for Word. Seem peculiar as well that the Office Compatibility Pack is marked N/A for examples of file types supported.

    In fact, there doesn't seem to be any editable text document formats listed (.doc, .txt, .wpd, .sxw, etc). Perhaps they've had issues in the past with folks claiming their stuff had been edited by the Moderators?

    Since the school already claimed responsibility for the error, there should already be law suits afoot.

  107. Leonard
    Paris Hilton

    I agree with:

    Cameron Colley: "Surely they can just convert the Word documents into PDFs or HTML?"

    The documents/courseworks are all in Word .doc format. Download some free pdf converter and convert them to pdf and re-submit. No pupils need to be asked to take extra lessons. Who is teaching them anyhow?????? Paris: cos I'm sure even she knows how to convert things.

  108. Nanki Poo

    Easy does it...

    The crux of this is that a teacher made a mistake and the examining board do not have the systems in place to identify potential anomolies in the marking. Thus whole swathes of papers going missing this year and no-one noticing until the schools got them back. Systems fail, in this area unfortunately with monotonous regularity.

    BUT... after reading half the comments I couldn't read any more of the "Word, the most used..." etc etc. Anyone who has ever dealt with volumes of documents knows that Word is not that reliable across all of the possible versions*. Also the software used has to be deployed to disparate locations from where the markers work, reliably, across different platforms and different specced machines. Pdf - tick. MS readers - generally tick, except for Word, especially with the docx blx.

    *Having worked in high-volume print design, there are very good reasons why we were unwilling to play with client's work which had been supplied 'print ready'... If something drops out, we get the blame, so everything has to be sent back for checking, then approved, etc. Therefore in a real critical case (who would want the most pertinent paragraph of their analysis to disappear into a formatting glitch between versions?) such as this, only the kids can do the conversion. Even the teacher can't, or else the kids could challenge what document was submitted.

    I suspect that the evening classes will be to top up on formatting knowledge of <say> Adobe so that the students can do the conversion. I would imagine it's probably a controlled environment as well to try and prevent too much changing of the actual content and potentially having an unfair advantage over other schools.


  109. Richard Penna

    Are they mad?

    Rarely do words fail me when reading a story, but this takes the biscuit.

    Let them re-save their work, submit it again and give them their diplomas! What the hell is the board and school playing at - some 'life lesson'?

  110. Spider

    one rule for..

    this is the same edexcel that pleads for more time and understanding when they can't even mark papers on time or gets students in to carry out marking work? so they expect everyone else to be flexible when they can't meet the requirements of their contract but they want to hammer students whose teachers admit they screwed up over something so easily rectified?

    next time they screw the pooch. make sure they're nailed to the fecking wall for penalty payments, hounded out of their jobs and pilloried for the scum they are.

  111. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    So the IT tutors don't know how to handle .exe files?

    Ah, Stunning?

  112. Roy

    the toolkit is for free viewing

    I'll bet the exam board issues the markers with a CD of software, which all just happens to be free. Its about money.

  113. Neil Greatorex
    Paris Hilton

    @ By Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 8th December 2008 17:03 GMT

    "I work at a school, and we aren't required " to use OpenDocument since 2007 " - You can use any software you like to create the work, just as long as it is submitted in the right format."

    It's quite bloody obvious that you work at Cotelands you complete idiot.

    OpenDocument (sic) is not a bloody word processor or a "software", it's a file format you tw@.

    My guess is you are the flaming teacher responsible. I'll be in the Shoulder* for a pint tomorrow evening, from 7. Care to show your face?


    * Pub in Ruskington

    El Reg: Odds on the id10t showing?

    Paris: As even she isn't that stupid.... Or?

  114. John Imrie


    BeeeEEEEeeeEEEp BEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEP! BeeeeEEEE.......

  115. Andrew Taylor
    Gates Horns


    This story was covered on my local edition of Look North, the school has accepted all responsibility because the students were incorrectly told to save the course work in Word format and all the course work is being changed to the correct format and resubmitted for assessment in January. It is the teacher and only the teacher that is at fault here, he/she did not read the course work briefings properly and defaulted to Word. A similar thing happened to a friends daughter, her IT Teacher only bothered to learn the very basics about IT, and MS Office apps in particular, as a result the IT GCSE at that school was only ever awarded as a 1/2 GCSE result. Children wanting a career in IT had to attend evening classes. What a farce.

  116. Charles Manning

    A breakdown in the school system

    People make mistakes. That's one of the most basic things you need to know about the world. It seems that these kids just followed what the teacher said like a herd of sheep. It is unbelievable that at least one did not read the instructions and challenge the teacher.

    Still, they've learned that now! Won't be just listening to the teacher in the future.

  117. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    It seems to me that this type of bloody-minded rigidity of thinking is becoming all too common. Because a computer follows instructions to the letter, does that excuse people from using some lateral, or balanced thinking?

    It would be good to see some authority ask this mob why they couldn't simply covert the .doc files into an appropriate format and perhaps warn the school to RTFM in future.

  118. yeah, right.


    Which only goes to show the students weren't properly trained. They needed to look up the data format standards themselves, not trust "management". Excellent lesson that they'll never forget, assuming it gets drilled home as a lesson and not as them being "victims" or something.

  119. Keith T
    Black Helicopters

    This demonstrates why Edexcel should be failed

    If Edexcel isn't competent to assign responsibility for the error to the person who made the error, the teacher, not the students, then Edexcel isn't competent to sit in judgment of anyone.

    In both the working world and the academic world, while you might question concepts, you still follow instructions from your boss or your teacher on administrative matters.

    It would only be fair to hold this against the students at this level if the students were assigned the task of determining what submission format is acceptable.

    Mistakes happen, but that Edexcel did not correct its mistake within a week, seems to strongly indicate incompetence at managerial and executive levels in that organization.

  120. ed

    Of course...

    ..and they totally practice what they preach!

  121. Frank Bough
    Thumb Up

    Go .RTF!

    A document format that you can still respect in the morning.

  122. Daniel Evans

    Wait a second

    The link to the Dida supported filetypes includes:

    "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack"

    Which, just to double check that this does exactly what you'd think it does, allows you to:

    "Open, edit, and save documents, workbooks, and presentations in the file formats new to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007."

    And the blurb at the top states:

    "Students must ensure that the contents of their eportfolio can be read by software in the toolkit."

    So since this entry toolkit allows moderators to open, edit and save word documents - what the FUCK is Edexcel on about?

  123. Neil Greatorex

    @ Michael 21:42

    Investigating journalism eh?

    Bet they teach about telling about telling about tall tales. </allegedly>

  124. Sam Bennett
    Thumb Down


    I am disgusted with EdExcel.

    It's tantamount to a God complex to summarily dismiss the culmination of years of study, just because it's evidently too difficult to open an MS Word-formatted document.

    There can be no excuse for not requiring that moderators accept all submissions, whatever the format, requesting that they be resubmitted if absolutely necessary. The fact is that while Microsoft's format is proprietory, it can be opened without recourse to Microsoft Word, using OpenOffice for example.

    In any case, why should MS Word be single out if MS Excel and MS Powerpoint are accepted formats?

    In what way are they qualified to mark and IT exam submission anyway, if they can't tackle this two minute job?


  125. Herby

    What should have been done...

    Is to FAIL the TEACHER. He was the one who gave the wrong directions.

    Yes, Microsoft formats are bad. What else is new?

  126. Anonymous Coward

    Multi-mate file format on a 5.5" floppy disc?

    FAIL !!

  127. Zargof
    IT Angle

    This will be a good lesson for the kids

    I think the kids will benefit from this whole debacle. It will teach them a few things if they want a career in IT or a lot of other industries.

    1) Make sure you read and understand the requirements before you start.

    2) If the requirements are ambiguous or confusing (Microsoft compatility pack), get clarification.

    3) If you make a mistake from not reading the requirements, then it is your fault.

    4) Don't trust management (teachers) to know what they're talking about.

    Then get someone to replace any remaining optimism you may possess with a healthy dose of cynicism and possibly some drug dependency issues and you'll be ready for a career in IT.

  128. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Most of us are professionals

    So can we please stop using the term ICT, since El Reg has already declared its use officially naff

  129. SkippyBing


    According to Edexcel's website they'll accept documents in Excel (I guess they have to really) so I can only guess the anti-Word policy is because they're c***s. I mean any other government contract if they said, 'Oh we can't take MS Word documents' and they'd be told to f**k off. If you're going to mark IT exams surely you've got to accept a range of file format otherwise it's just typing for beginners.

  130. Dave Morris
    Thumb Down


    How can they justify not accepting Word .doc format when they do accept Excel .xls format? Perhaps this teacher (for it is his/her fault) should simply copy and paste each student's word document into an Excel spreadsheet, then submit that.

    This reeks, badly, of bureaucratic incompetence on the part of edexcel. It sounds like their book of procedures needs to be thrown out, all employees need to be released and a new board needs to be formed. They should be either given very rigid requirements and goals for efficiency and effectiveness, with the only threat of failure being to be let go, or they should be given very wide leverage to make a better system, but with failure bringing a penalty normally associated with being rendered unto a third party nation.

  131. robbie
    IT Angle

    We're obviously not paying enough taxes... be stuck with a) this outfit and b) the government agency that should monitor them.

    I don't blame the teacher: that's one hell of a list of acceptable formats - did they get their software on a CD with the Sunday Mail? Why PowerPoint & Excel but not Word? Ah, that must be what the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack does then?! Oops, no it isn't - I must get the kids to write their essays in 3D Java next time.

    Thank goodness the DfES, or is it DUIS or DCSF (and I wonder how much we've spent on name changes since the days of the good old Department of Education?) can supply us with information on how to read some common document formats: see for some useful details, including a link to several MS Word viewers. A pity neither they nor Edexcel thought to look at it. What formats do they write to each other in I wonder? Do they have anyone with computing experience from the last twenty years working there?

    Just WTF are these people doing with their time (and my money)? "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" indeedy.

  132. Anonymous Coward

    Another reason..

    to stop farming out our childrens education to the private ("lets do it as cheaplgy as possible, 'cause that's what the government wants") sector.

  133. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Train as you mean to play

    "We need to train our people to live in the real world, where software does what it is supposed to do and customers never reject bids because they didn't like the font we used."

    You have to be able to read between the lines I'm afraid. "We don't like the font you've used" translates as "We're not going to be using you but need a diplomatic excuse for political reasons". Ever see Alan Partridge trying to find an excuse to fire someone? Your bid with the "wrong font" is the unwashed cup.

  134. Chris Malme

    Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack is on the list

    If Word is not a valid format, isn't it strange that "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" part of the software authorised for installation on the moderator's computer?

    If nothing else, seeing the words "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" might give some folk the impression that Microsoft Office (including Word) *is* a permissible piece of software to use.

  135. Anonymous Coward

    A real world lesson in IT

    If it wasn't a course specifically related to IT, say an English Literature course, I'd say it was grossly unfair to penalize the students for the teacher's misdirection in how to format the material.

    BUT, being an IT course, those who pass might find their way into the IT industry, where they may occasionally be expected to work within arbitrary rules and standards, use the tools they're given, and even - once in a while - RTFM. Why DOC files aren't allowed is totally irrelevant. It's a Rule of this particular Game, and successful IT people are good at working within rules when they have to. So the examining authority has no choice but to reject non-compliant submissions.

    Those who are put off IT for life by the frustration of being rejected sight-unseen by an inflexible and inhuman automated system are probably getting excellent career guidance by this debacle,

    they can protest and bluster and move into Marketing. Or politics. They'd never want to make a living in an industry where inattention to fiddling technical details can wreck an entire project.

  136. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The DiDA documentation is misleading

    On the URL that leads to the DiDA "Moderator's Toolkit" (which lists what software examiners have installed) contains an entry called "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack".

    What is a candidate (or a teacher) to conclude from that? I'd say it's perfectly understandable to conclude that Microsoft Office formats are accepted.

  137. Naadir Jeewa

    Missing the point

    The end product of the DiDA, or the Diploma in Digital Applications is the e-portfolio. Specifically, the e-portfolio is a website.

    It's not a matter of resaving the documents - the teacher has fundamentally misunderstood the requirements of the course. Hence the need for evening classes for the students involved.

  138. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "??" is a title

    According to the posted link of formats accepted by Edexcel, they have the free Excel 2003 viewer (.xls), and the free PowerPoint 2007 viewer (.ppt) (along with the "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" to enable them to open all the Office 2007 formats) . It strikes me as odd, that the Moderators would be given the free Excel and Powerpoint viewers, but not the free Word viewer.

    Even worse that a moderator would fail a whole class because of this.

  139. John Fielder

    DIDA formats

    the reasoning behind the format limits is that ALL the work is submitted online, as an e-portfolio, basically a web site. ALL formats must be readable on the internet for free. There is not a free reader for Word format. Acceptable formats are PDF, Excel, Powerpoint and HTML. all of which can be read, for free, in an Internet Browser.

    All this is clearly explained on the course description that the students and teachers use.

  140. Jeremy

    Resonable response...

    This would have been a reasonable response:

    This document format is not accepted by the examination board. Please re-submit all coursework in an acceptable format within 7 working days. Failure to re-submit within the allocated time will result in students not being passed. Thank you for your cooperation.

  141. James Woods

    almost as stupid as

    Showing up to congress in your private jet begging for money. If teachers like this were smart and could make it out in the world they wouldn't be teachers, these teachers are pupils that never learn.

  142. jake Silver badge

    Horses for courses ...

    I've failed[1] students for submitting course material in the wrong format myself.

    When I'm teaching system administration or security administration, I expect all electronic homework to be submitted in 7-bit ASCII. Anything else is unacceptable. At the beginning of each course, I make certain to let the students know this ... and WHY (most important real-life corporate computer systems are administered by manipulating simple ASCII text files).

    The first homework assignment, assigned the first day of the class, requires an electronic reply ... all students who don't pass are given one single reminder during the next session (the computers expect 7-bit ASCII, and so do I ... so I want .txt only, no AOL, no PDF, no HTML, etc.), and individual advice on sending me the required format from their system. The first homework is NOT actually part of the final mark.

    People who don't follow the advice after that don't pass the course. The way I see it, they are too stupid to be given control of major systems anyway.

    Before anyone suggests I'm a little fish in a small pond, and that's the only way I can get away with it, I have taught my courses at all of the colleges & JCs in the San Francisco Bay Area ... I don't even have a teaching credential, yet they actually bid for me when I decide to teach.

    [1] "FAIL" as a meme is worse than tired. Stop it. All of you.

  143. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Since the final piece is a website...

    Not accepting .doc seems appropriate to me!

  144. Filippo Silver badge

    @John Fielder

    A free Word viewer is available from the Microsoft website.

    Edexcel isn't rejecting DOCs out of spite for closed-but-widely-adopted formats. It isn't rejecting DOCs because they aren't "for the web". It isn't rejecting DOCs because it supports open source. It isn't rejecting DOCs because they are editable, and it isn't rejecting DOCs because their layout is unpredictable.

    Their list of accepted formats includes Excel and Powerpoint, which are at least as closed as DOCs, and it includes HTML, which is at least as editable and unpredictable as DOCs. As near as I can tell, they aren't accepting DOCs because they are morons.

    And, frankly, if they were rejecting DOCs for any of the above mentioned reasons, I'd consider them morons anyway. If I told any of my customers that I don't have a word viewer and won't install one out of principle, I'd be laughed out of the contract - and the same would happen if any of them told that to me.

  145. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

    Is listed as part of the toolkit of software the examiners have; logically then, they HAVE Word!!!

    Also, they have no listing for text documents, only pdf files; since the software to write pdf format is not the same as a free pdf reader I can understand why the work was submitted in "Word" format by teachers forced to use M$ software.

    Paris, cos she'll take anything if she thinks it's pretty.

  146. Sean Gray

    Not incompetent enough!

    Maybe that's why I spent a year failing to get a job as an IT teacher - I actually know the difference between filetypes and can read! Now I understand what they meant when they said I wasn't what they were looking for.

  147. Greg

    Looks like a fairly standard toolkit to me ?

    Looking at the Link all the tools on the examiners pre imaged machines are free to dowload and use.

    The issue is that they would need to purchase a copy of Word for each and every machine for what? so a few papers could be viewed. People need to understand that the .doc format is a closed format, MS don't supply a .doc reader and OpenOffice isn't the answer for conversion due to it having to reverse engineer a solution.

    As I said working in IT and looking at the supported list you can see the obviousness in why certain formats have been selected, I can only assume that the Teacher is not of a required standard to teach IT and as a parent I would go absolutley balistic with the school.

  148. Tim Parker
    Thumb Up


    > [1] "FAIL" as a meme is worse than tired. Stop it. All of you.

    Well put. Likewise, is it really illegal to shoot people for saying "my bad" ?

  149. Greg

    And another thing?

    I'm really upset that people think that .DOC is an acceptable format and that you can just re-save the work and everything will be fine. The M/S Word format isn't one that is generally supported. One of the main issues with it is its incompatibility between versions. A .DOC document saved in Word 97 isn't the same as one saved in Word XP or Office 2007. All web based software that would deploy documents would use PDF if anything due to its high compatibility.

    Just because everyone gets a copy of some version of Word when they buy a windows PC doesn't make the format an industry standard!

  150. Mark

    re: Didn't accept MS Word?!

    Well, reasons may include

    a) Only Word can manage Word, and costs to buy. You shouldn't have to pay to be educated.

    b) Which version of Word

    c) Word is a great way of passing around viruses

    Any one on their own is good enough reason.

  151. Mark

    re: Are there other formats?


    Plain text ASCII.

    Acceptable anywhere.

  152. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for the examiner to be examined

    The complaint by Edexcel seems even more absurd once you've looked down the list of products examiners can install. Examiners can install the Office compatibility pack - presumably because it is anticipated that the Office suite will be installed in examiners PCs. Or perhaps the author of the list are being deliberately mischeivious.

    It's doubly disingenuous because IE can display word documents or, at least, they could be saved to Html and viewed in IE.

    I hope you do get chance to take Edexcel to task. Even OpenOffice is not in the list so submitting any word processed document using the world's most two widely used tools is not allowed. But minority sport tools like mediator and openview are. What if a pupil used the extremely widely used Eclipse or Microsoft's VS 2008 to create a web application - tools employers would find useful - instead of Mediator? They'd be penalised? Just because they didn't save to PDF?

    It seems like the examiner has let themselves get caught in timewarp and maybe that alone should be worrying.

  153. Mark

    re: Odd choices.

    I don't think Powerpoint has much of a virus cross-section compared to Word.

    Maybe that's why.

  154. Mark

    re: What about DOCX?

    Have you used it? No? Well it reads to me like the compatability pack allows, for example, PDFs to be displayed in Office 2003.

    It doesn't (and should not) change the Word2003 format and that would mean that it cannot be the compatability pack makes the Word2003 format acceptable. So it remains verboten.

    Office doesn't understand its own formats much any more and the days of Word understanding all the major players in the document creation market ended when MS killed all the competitors to become the market leader. The other formats could go hang then.

  155. Mark

    re: Resonable response...

    And thereby giving them 7 more days than anyone else to submit their work.

    Which is unfair.

    Add to that the course is about how to prepare and send documents and one element is how document presentation is a very different kettle of fish from document preparation (e.g. You don't print out the postscript language to PRESENT the document, you run the program to turn those directives into an image. But to CREATE the postscript image, you may use a plain text editor to enter the right directives, or even a program) and by submitting their work in a documentation *production* format shows they have failed to learn the course, why shouldn't they be failed.

    With a fail and having to do a new exam:

    a) they don't get extra days to finish their work

    b) they will finally learn the difference between the production and presentation aspects of documentation.

  156. Paul McConkey

    @ John Fielder

    If you follow the link in the article you'll see the list of viewers that EdExcel supply to their moderators - plenty of MS proprietary viewers there but why no FREE MS word viewer??

    Available FREE here:

  157. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    re: The DiDA documentation is misleading

    No, it isn't.

    Why is a compatability pack needed to make the native format of an application compatible? It is either compatible without it since there is no problem with the format or the native format isn't compatible, and therefore why do you assume that the native format is changed?

    It's just that you want Word used because you think that it must be used 'cos you use it and MS wrote it and they're great and everyone else is just poopy-heads and we need kids who don't read instructions but can use Word and and and and...

  158. Sooty

    this happens a lot

    teacher cock-ups i mean. You can't blame the examination board for a teacher, not teaching correctly. It's unfair on the students, but it's the school that needs to sort this out, not the exam board

    For all those saying that the examiners can easily read the documents, that's not the issue, the issue is that the examination conditions were not met, and so the work submitted is invalid. It looks like it's more than just a format issue though if they were supposed to produce a website and presented a word document.

    A similar thing happened to me in my GCSE 'IT' course. The whole class spent 2 years studying IT and were then presented with an Information Systems GCSE paper during the exam. (The information systems paper was much more in depth) Only 2 of us passed, me being one of them as it wasn't exactly challenging, so i wasn't too bothered. But for all those that failed they should be p*ssed off, the teacher spent 2 years teaching them the wrong subject for the exam they were entered for, not that the exam board wouldn't mark their incorrect answers as right.

  159. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Education industry's management culture

    I'm not at all surprised by this story. I have friends who are teachers and I hear a lot of horror stories about the management culture. Despite the focus on metrics there seems to be a lot of politics and not much meritocracy going on. The further you go from the coalface the worse things are.

    One friend who's a teacher has even been bullied by her school's management, apparently on religious grounds (she works in a faith school but isn't of that faith).

  160. Phil the Geek

    @ DIDA formats / John Fielder

    "There is not a free reader for Word format"

    Are you/they joking? OpenOffice is free and it reads (and edits) .doc format. Anyone who doesn't know that needs re-education!

  161. Paul Farrington
    Paris Hilton

    @John Fielder - Free .doc readers

    Microsoft provide a Word Viewer as a free download, and I'm led to believe that the reportedly excellent (and free) Open Office can also open Microsoft Office format documents...

  162. Lars Steffensen

    What a joke

    I just love how Edexcel has put a slogan on their website that reads: "Connected to the real world"

  163. Dave

    Well Done.

    All I can say is: if I applied for a job, and they asked for my CV in a specific format, then that is what I would give them. If I gave them something different, then I would expect it not to be read.

    Reminder: this was an IT exam. If it was history or something like that, I would say that the format did not matter, but in this case it was surely part of the requirements.

    A better example would be when I sat Technical Drawing a long time ago: if I had submitted a micro-fiche of my work I would have expected to fail, however good the draftsmanship: that may be a valid archival format, but the layout and labelling all fall within the confines of the actual exam.

    The teacher should certainly be sacked - AFTER he has tutored all of the children for free.

  164. Gary

    It doesn't really matter though...

    GSCEs and their equivalents mean bugger all anyway!

    If the students were really serious about IT they would have taught themselves all of the really useful knowledge years before taking any stupid tests to create an ePortfolio full of crap.

    All of my computer and programming knowledge is self taught and at uni I mainly topped-up my knowledge with some new stuff.

    Mines the one crammed with floppy discs filled with databases, spreadsheets and webpages from long forgotten courseworks stuffed the pocket.

  165. andy gibson

    Moderators Toolkit Workstation

    My school, like any other technically competent one that read the information provided, set up a stand alone computer running the "Moderator's Toolkit" so that the pupils could thoroughly test their work before submission.

  166. W


    "For all those saying that the examiners can easily read the documents, that's not the issue, the issue is that the examination conditions were not met, and so the work submitted is invalid. It looks like it's more than just a format issue though if they were supposed to produce a website and presented a word document." - Sooty (Posted Tuesday 9th December 2008 11:05 GMT)

    Anyone else saying that they should just unquestioningly accept the .doc file fails the El Reg RTFA criteria.

    Maybe they could accpet it but knock off some marks or something, but the key fact will remain that they did not meet the requirements of the course.

    If this was a history essay, then things might be different. But it's not, it's a "Diploma in Digital Application". I think getting filetypes right is a justifiable portion of such a course.

  167. Bad Beaver

    nothing teaches like PAIN

    Therefore I applaud this drastic approach. DOC is the bane of document exchange and it needs to be erased from folks minds to even consider it a valid format if we ever want to get rid of it. This is, in addition to all the anger and frustration it causes even if you DO use MS Office, exactly because of all the "duh, if this was a company they'd go out of business" comments. BECAUSE THAT'S WRONG STATE OF AFFAIRS IF YOU FAIL TO SEE IT. *foam*

    Oh, and if the required document types were open to the students, they deserve to fail anyway, as apparently they cannot read. If you cannot read, you can work in the postal services (in Germany at least) but not in IT.

  168. Stef

    Not the kids' fault

    If the teacher told them to save it in M$ Turd format then it's hardly their fault.

    I remember failing an exam which I should have sailed through because of being incorrectly advised by a teacher.

    Because of that I didn't go to college and went straight into IT at the ground floor instead, meaning that I'm now not as useless as most graduates!

    But I guess I did miss out on a lot of parties.

  169. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me get this straight...

    The have a "standard kit" that includes MS Excel Viewer and MS PowerPoint Viewer, but not MS Word Viewer? I mean, I could see perhaps requiring an open standards format (but then I think most of them have figured out how to decode most MS formats anyway), but to support the lesser of the MS formats and not the major?! The mind boggles. In considering what ought to be done with the edexcel "people" who put this kit together, the words of an animate movie from my youth come to mind:

    Hanging's too good for 'em! Burning's too good for 'em! [They] should be torn into itty bitty pieces and buried alive!

  170. Vincent


    I did my ICT GCSE last year and saved my files in the .doc format and passed. Have the rules changed recently at all? The exam board was the same as this one too. Hmm.

    Were they using Word 2007 or something? I was using Word 2000. Yes, I know, the school that I was in was still teaching students how to use 8 (then 7) year old software. Pretty crap, eh?

    Anywho, I hope those students get the grades that they actually deserve. It would suck doing all that preparation for the exam and then not getting the result that you deserve through no fault of their own.

  171. Nat Clarke

    The beginning of a hugely pedantic state?

    As an IT student myself I use PDF all the time as its the only alternative provided at our college.

    Its all a bit of a pain in the a**e though because from my personnal experience teachers like the work in something like word where:

    A) Pretty much every single student will have the relevant software at home or at school

    B) It can be used in a way that enables teachers to mark work digitally and send via email giving students more time to do their work to the best of their ability (Its easier and more realistic to email the entire class their homework back on a weekend than it would to start delivering their work door to door on the saturday) unlike other formats that Edexcel do accept (PDF is one of them)

    I think it was pretty damn harsh on the kids too, the next step will be to fail english students if they ever spell a word incorrectly.

  172. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Par for the course I'm afraid

    You have to remember that schools are places where you can be suspended and miss out on your taxpayer-funded education if you transgress even tiny rules, like not wearing the correct uniform, or wearing he wrong items of jewelery.

    Apparently (and I've had this argument with real teachers of my acquaintance) it's not that these transgressions make a pupil any less suitable to be taught. It's that "rules is rules", and if you give them an inch they'll take a mile and, oh yes, it sets a precedent for the other kids.

    So there's your answer, I think. If we accept Word format from this school, they'll all want to use it - and God knows what other formats besides. Best to keep the little blighters in their place, even if it was the teacher's fault all along.

    A bit pathetic in my view but, like I say, I've had this argument and teachers stick together. I've no reason to think exams boards are any different, being staffed by failed teachers in the main.

  173. jake Silver badge

    @Tim Parker

    >> [1] "FAIL" as a meme is worse than tired. Stop it. All of you.


    > Well put.


    > Likewise, is it really illegal to shoot people for saying "my bad" ?

    Probably, seeing as it's illegal to shoot tourists, even during tourist season ...

  174. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It can't have been JUST the file format

    Whatever the merits of the file formats that EdExcel specify - and I believe there are too many on the list - the list is clearly available and the spec says clearly what is expected.

    That said the ONLY section of the DiDA mark scheme that is affected by this should be section (e) where marks above 3/9 require appropriate formats. The students should have lost a MAXIMUM of 6/42 marks - ie one grade. UNLESS all candidates got a PASS grade AND were given full marks in section (e) then some should have Passed.

    Quote from EdExcel's Assessment Guidance:

    Section (e) For 3 marks, a student must have demonstrated some awareness of audience and purpose by producing a basic eportfolio that allows access to most of the required evidence using the Moderator’s Toolkit. Context pages must include some appropriate comments introducing the evidence.

    For 5 marks, a student must have demonstrated good awareness of audience and purpose by producing an eportfolio that conforms to the technical specification and allows access to all of the required evidence using the Moderator’s Toolkit. Context pages must include some appropriate comments introducing the evidence and make some use of the medium to present achievements (e.g. by choosing appropriate file formats).

    Note however it says MOST so even them SOME of the evidence can be in inappropriate formats. Only when you get to 5 marks is it essential that it all conforms to the techspec.

    Everything else being OK of course. Methinks we only get the one issue blown beyond all proportion there MUST have been other issues to get them all failed.

  175. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which formats are acceptable?

    I find it interesting that a lot of posters are saying:

    "The teacher should have known"

    and the same people are asking "which file types are acceptable"

    Both the teacher and those posting such comments could easily find the information by searching the web.

    Initially the list was shorter. However there has been a change to it. We used to teach it here but changed as the qualification seems to test the English skills more than the ICT skills involved.

    I have posted on this earlier but to reitterate - there is NO WAY that the students would ALL fail just because they submitted incorrect file formats. MAXIMUM loss for that is 6 marks which would take them down 1 full grade. Therefore anyone awarded the A*,A, and B grades would have still passed. There had to be other issues.

    Personally I believe that anyone stupid enough to get the file formats wrong would also have missed other, much more subtle, issues within the mark scheme and therefore messed up in other sections; hence the students needing to do additional work.

  176. Peter Millington

    Support for MS Office

    But one of the linked items in the referenced URL is the 'Microsoft Office Compatability Pack' which only runs on top of MS Office - which does of course understand .doc files. So what's the story now?

  177. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Edexcel at it again I see.

    As someone in education I have to put up with Edexcel's incompetence which also strains our budget (A site licence for Microsoft Office 2007 (Part of our VLA) is a hell of a lot cheaper than Acrobat Professional; which is just a stupid format that demands the reader be slow, bloated and just stupid and anyone who thinks Acrobat is actually good for anything should be promptly put down - Well, Ok, it's good for publishing print materials like maps, user guides, policies and those 'getting started' things - Nothing more. Also, have you seen the licensing for that MissionMaker crap? As an educational institute, budgets are tight, do these nobody companies really expect us to stump up for a site license of a product only one department is going to use, and not use very much?).

    I still remember Edexcel being hauled over hot coal by UK government for purposefully marking down exam papers to make it look as if their exams are getting harder. Their moderators have a set list of what answers to expect, and if it's something else (or to reach marking quota - don't read the entire explanation, even though they say you can go on to another sheet if needed) they mark it down. I remember back in college I was asked to explain filesystems and I went in to great depth (even as far as explaining the 1024 boot boundary and that some older BIOSes didn't accept anything over 8Gb) and despite everything being correct, it was marked down.

    I'm hoping a lawsuit comes out of this and Edexcel are hit hard and forced in to remarking the papers and having to go to the trouble of downloading the word viewer (Yes it DOES exist, Google it). We as schools teaching the national curriculum have to stomach the licensing costs of the tools they demand we use (And they get away with using the free 'viewers'), so should they! And if you're not horrified yet, read what they ask ICT Teachers to teach where networks and infrastructure is concerned, they're still using hubs, token rings and BNC cabling as opposed to switches, Cat6, routers and in-depth looks at the OSI model's layer 3 to gain an in-depth knowledge of 802.11q, and kids/sixth form are walking out of school and in to college or uni thinking that what they've been taught is correct when it's 10 years out of date.

    Of course, Edexcel could also be forced out of business; it's not like OCR or AQA couldn't take their place and make a mess of it as much as Edexcel did.

    Paris Hilton because even she couldn't make as much of a mess of the ICT curriculum as Edexcel has.

  178. Gavin Craddock
    Thumb Down

    Teacher's fault, no doubt about it

    I taught the DiDA qualifiction last year and it was hammered into every one of us that Word documents would not be accepted; it's also on their website, in the specifications and is mentioned at EVERY training event. The teacher would have had to have severe problems not to spot this, I can't see how it could have been missed by anyone working as a professional. Teacher's fault, no doubt about it.

  179. Stephen Sherry

    Tear them a new asshole REG!!!!

    Edexcel has got to get their heads out of their Edasses! With today's "advanced" technology (5 years old at least) every one of the students could have just downloaded openoffice, or have the teacher do it, and just convert them all into one of the other formats, easy peasy. For them to not know that is a sign that they have no clue about tech and only are against .doc because they heard it was potentially unsafe. I bet they open and evaluate those documents on a program that can execute hidden viruses, which theoretically can become embedded into any format, just needs an insecure-ish reader to execute it. $50 says they use a web browser based method of viewing them! ;~P lol, jerks

  180. Stephen Sherry


    Edexcel has a nice little "ask us" section where you can ask them how they got so behind in their IT department to have a list of formats that are now known to be as insecure as .doc

    You have to register with them, but if you're not too sarcastic and insulting I think they'll take good advice when it comes, usually problems like this arise when someone who used to be in HR says, "I can manage an IT department better than they can!" Then things like this happen. I mean HTM and Flash? more secure than .doc? really?? Since when? Only back when people had no clue, like when they created their acceptable formats list :P Thanks to windows, almost anything can execute anything now, they should just bite the bullet and have everything sent to them in paper form becuase they are not an IT specialized company, just an education helper with delusions of cyber-grandeur, i.e. completely dangerously clueless.

  181. Simon

    Other schools did this too, you know

    They were not the only school where this happened. My son, also received a mark of zero for this course along with along with everyone else in his class for the same reason - work was submitted to the examining board in the wrong format.

    The school was Harry Carlton, in East Leake, Nottinghamshire.

    We received a letter from the school explaining what had happened, but pointing out that the syllabus wasn't actually even promulgated until well after the course had started either. I'm told they've dropped the course from this year.

  182. mittfh

    Acrobat Pro?

    If your IT Dept thinks the only PDF writing solution is Acrobat Professional, they need their heads examined...there are oodles of PDF writers out there, many with considerable volume discounts. Your LA might already have struck a deal, as PDF writers are increasingly needed in other areas of council business - especially with the drive to implement EDMS (Electronic Document Management Solutions).

    Of course, there's also a potential solution that can also replace the entirety of M$ Orifice at zero cost, as well as offering integrated PDF writing. And it's not just for "masochistic Linux users" - you can get binaries for Windoze as well...

    However, finding a decent low-cost alternative to Adobe Flash Professional may be a little trickier...

  183. Miguel Wallis

    Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

    Seems odd that they have 'Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack' listed under the list of accepted file formats, which includes support for Microsoft Word 2007 ('.docx' extension) but not explicitly include a listing for legacy Word format, especially as Excel and PowerPoint are included.

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