For almost the whole academic year, students at a sixth-form college pored over Bram Stoker’s classic horror story Dracula.
Then two weeks before their A-level English exam, they discovered that they should have been learning Frankenstein.
Their teacher had failed to notice that the syllabus changed at the start of the school year in September.
The teenagers at Newmarket College in Suffolk now face desperately having to cram the right text before the exam on Thursday.
Abbie Stallabrass, 18, said: ‘We just sat there stunned when our teacher told us. Dracula is one of three books we had been studying and it was the one we’d spent the most time on. We are certainly not as confident about the other two.
‘We now have to cram about eight months’ work into ten hours – I can’t believe it.’
College principal Dr Bob Cadwalladr said: ‘I am mortified and very upset for the four students involved and their parents. I have talked to the teacher involved about what happened, and why, and how we can avoid anything like this happening again.
‘We have made formal representation to the exam board for special consideration for the students involved as none of this was their fault. I can only apologise to the students and parents involved.’
The ‘inadequate’ college, which was criticised for poor exam results last summer, was put under Ofsted special measures last month.
It is applying to become an academy. The error was spotted when another teacher looked at next year’s syllabus and saw that the set texts had changed.
Miss Stallabrass added: ‘The teacher was being strangely nice when we went into the classroom.
‘Then she said, “There has been a cock-up and the text you have been studying has not been in the exam”.
‘I was so angry I couldn’t even speak. It makes you worry there are serious problems with communication within the school.
A spokesman for the exam board AQA said: ‘Boards do change set texts from time to time and we ensure that we let schools know.
‘Where a school has taught the wrong text by mistake, we work with them to find a solution so that students aren’t disadvantaged. In this case, we have made arrangements that students will be able to refer to Dracula in part of their responses and their answers will be marked as normal.’
Dracula was part of the A2 exam, which is studied in the second year of A-levels. It was written in 1897, while Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published almost 80 years earlier in 1818.
Both texts were included in the post-1800 section of the AQA English Literature A-level Gothic texts exam paper until the beginning of the academic year when Dracula was removed.
The exam blunder comes after English Language and Literature pupils at Sandown Bay Academy on the Isle of Wight were left stumped when no questions about the Harold Pinter play The Caretaker appeared in an AS paper last Friday. It, too, had been removed from the syllabus.