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June 23, 2015 8:05 AM EDT

Thousands of French teenagers were stumped by a question in their English exam paper using the word ‘coping.’ The question, based on Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, asks how the character Robbie Turner – falsely accused of rape – is “coping with the situation.”

A disgruntled 17-year-old, known only as Arthur, launched a petition describing the question as “incomprehensible” and “impossible” and called for the notorious ‘Question M’ either to be annulled when grading the exam, known in France as the baccalaureate or for bonus points to be awarded to those who managed to answer it. More than 12,000 pupils had signed it by Tuesday morning.

Arthur told a local TV station that ‘coping’ is not a word in common usage and would only be familiar to someone with “excellent” English.

Others defended the question. Fellow student Hugo Travers, 18, tweeted: “In 2015, you find a question hard and you write a petition full of errors. No, just no.”

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