French students unable to 'cope' with tricky question

atonement Image copyright Focus Features
Image caption James McAvoy played Robbie Turner, whose state of mind stumped thousands of French students

The characters in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement are called upon to cope with all sorts of tricky situations.

But when French teenagers sitting an exam about the book were asked to cope with a tough question, they fell short on one key element - the word "coping".

Now almost 12,000 students have signed a petition saying the question was "impossible" to answer because they didn't know the word.

The 17-year-old behind it claims "only someone bilingual" would understand it.

The students of the baccalaureate English exam were asked to analyse a passage about the central character Robbie Turner, and how he was "coping with the situation".

But thousands of them took to social media after the test, using the hashtag #BacAnglais, to claim that the question was too difficult.

Addressed to France's Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the petition calls the question "incomprehensible and impossible to answer".

The pupil behind it, a 17-year-old known only as Arthur, told a local TV station that coping was "not a very common word" and only someone with "excellent" English would know it.

The petition calls for the question either to be annulled from the marking scheme or that bonus points are awarded to those who answered it.

However, others defended the question. Hugo Travers, 18, tweeted: "In 2015 you find a question a little difficult, you launch a petition full of mistakes. No, just no."

The complaint follows a similar controversy in the UK two weeks ago, when a petition over a maths question attracted almost 40,000 signatures.

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