Teachers at an 'outstanding' sixth-form college have been accused of 'leading' hundreds of pupils through their A-level exams to secure better grades.
Around 650 students will not be awarded grades after biology teachers apparently conducted experiments that were almost identical to the ones that were to appear in exam papers.
They also held in-class discussions about the experiments in preparation for the exam. Rules stipulate that pupils should not be led over what might appear in papers.
The AQA examination board's investigation into allegations of malpractice at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire, means that 400 AS students and 250 A-level students will not be awarded grades when results are published next month.
Instead they will have to take home their predicted results – meaning they could miss out on their preferred university course.
Leon Staffa, 18, from Blackburn, said he was 'shocked'. After under performing on his A-level module last year, he re-took it in order to boost his grades and try to get into a prestigious university to study dental hygiene and therapy.
"When I read the letter I thought 'oh no, I'm going to have to do the exam for a third time'," he said.
The college – rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted for 20 consecutive years – scored a 100 per cent pass rate last year. In 2012, 70 per cent of A-level students achieved grades A* to B.
The college has described the incident as 'unfortunate' and its own inquiry concluded that there was 'no deliberate attempt' to cheat.
A spokesman said its science teachers were advised by the exam board that they could run similar experiments in class to prepare students for practical exams.
"Unfortunately, it appears that the biology team misinterpreted what they were allowed to do to," said the spokesman.
"They ran similar (but not identical) experiments to those on the real exams; however, the exam board has judged that the experiments and the subsequent in-class group discussion activities gave our students an unfair advantage over students in other centres."
The college is introducing additional independent checks on exam preparations.