It is widely believed that one of the most effective ways of creating change in an education system is by introducing or by re-designing high-stakes examinations. This method is not foolproof, however, as there are many factors which can affect the impact of such an innovation. This study analyses the effects of an examination which was meant to serve as a 'lever for change'. It illustrates how the intended outcome was altered by factors in the exam itself, as well as characteristics of the educational setting, the teachers and the learners. Included are reviews of the literature of examination impact and innovation in education, and guidelines for the consideration of educators who continue to believe in the potential of examinations to effect curriculum change.