Pen and paper exams could soon be a thing of the past as England’s qualifications regulator, Ofqual, has said it is exploring technology to transform the way GCSEs and A-levels are administered.
The regulator’s latest business plan says Ofqual will remove regulatory hurdles to allow exam boards to study the use of remote assessment, digital delivery and ‘adaptive testing’ software that adapts exam questions to student answers.
Ian Bauckham, Chairman of Ofqual, said: “The pandemic has rightly catalyzed questions not if but when and how greater use of technology and on-screen assessment should be embraced.
“Any proposed changes must be carefully assessed for their impact on students, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.”
School leaders have said the use of exams delivered online could address security concerns and allow exams to take place under lockdown-like conditions in the future.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Our current reliance on a pen-and-paper examination system, organized on an industrial scale with security-like provisions Fort Knox regarding the transportation and storage of papers, is hopelessly outdated and ripe for reform.
“The recent experience of the pandemic has shown how vulnerable it is to unexpected events. If online assessment had been available, it might not have been necessary to cancel all summer exams for two consecutive years.
But Barton and Mary Bousted, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, both said Ofqual should take the opportunity for a more radical look at the use of high-stakes exams in the English school system.
“Education and proof of what a student has achieved during their time in school and college is more than just showing what can be remembered in a school leaving exam,” said Bousted.
Ofqual said the adaptive tests could replace the use of tiered GCSE exams – where simpler ‘basic level’ papers are offered to candidates deemed unable to achieve high marks.
Adaptive testing involves adjusting the difficulty of a test or exam based on a student’s ability. When a student answers a question correctly, increasingly challenging questions may be presented to them, and vice versa.
“We would know how difficult the questions are, which means students taking different combinations of questions can be compared and scored,” an Ofsted spokesperson said.
Adaptive tests are best suited for using multiple-choice questions or right/wrong answers in subjects such as math.
“Although there are no immediate plans to launch adaptive testing, it is important that we conduct this first exploratory work both from a technical perspective but also ensuring that we fully consider the points from the perspective of students, teachers and leaders,” the spokesperson said. mentioned.