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Ofqual Calls for Computerised Exams

Friday 25th February 2011

The Times Educational Supplement has published an article including comments from Isabel Nisbet, the chief executive of Ofqual, saying she wants all future exams to be taken on computer in order to cater for the more ’techno-savvy’ pupils. She told that pupils can currently take only “bits” of a “very small” number of GCSEs and A-levels on computer. Her reform suggestions were supported by two major exam boards.

“They [pupils] use IT as their natural medium for identifying and exploring new issues and deepening their knowledge," she said. "Yet we are even now accrediting new GCSEs, due to run for several years, which are still taken largely on paper.

“This cannot go on. Our school exams are running the risk of becoming invalid, as their medium of pen and ink increasingly differs from the way in which youngsters learn.”

However, some teachers are worried that this will cause a drastic problem with handwriting skills in the future, as well as the potential for cheating too. Mark Dawe of the OCR board also warned of hue problems with resources for computerised exams. He said “All the networks have got to be robust, every learner has to have access to a computer of the same speed and you have got to install security.”

Although moving all examinations onto computerised systems will aid the marking process and simplify work for exam boards, it would be harder to catch cheats if all assessments were taken on computers rather than pen and paper. For example, spellchecking and grammar functions could undermine literacy assessment.

The children’s author Jeremy Strong was quoted as saying: “The biggest danger is that children then lose the art of handwriting. It would be a great shame to lose handwriting altogether.”


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