children using computers in education

Mock digital exam trials to take place in UK schools

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An exam board is launching a trial of digital GCSE, IGCSE and A Level mock exams this week, which could eventually pave the way for digital exams as a permanent part of the system.

Thousands of students working under the OCR and Cambridge International exam boards will sit on-screen mock ‘high stakes’ exams for the first time starting this week.

GCSE Computer Science as well as IGCSEs in English and AS Level History are the first subjects being trialled, which will see schools pay around £10 for each digital exam.

Jill Duffy, chief executive of OCR, said: “Students and teachers embraced digital learning by necessity during the pandemic. Now we can harness the best of that technology in assessment by choice.”

The digital mock trials will run in weekly sessions until 19 March in up to 30 UK schools and 35 international schools in places including Chile and Zambia.

The on-screen mocks, based on real exam papers, will be marked by Cambridge examiners and results delivered to students within 14 days.

Following these 2023 trials, the digital mock service will be offered to all schools as a permanent part of its assessment services, Cambridge International said.

Jill Duffy, chief executive of OCR, said: “Digital assessment is not a hypothetical future; it’s happening right now. We will use insights from these trials to make our digital mocks a user-friendly option for all schools and colleges. Students will be able to take the highest quality online tests, building on our established paper exams, where schools opt to do so.

“Our development approach based on trials and research ensures we deliver high-quality, robust digital assessments. Digital assessment will never fully replace traditional exams, but technology is improving the student experience and can make exams more effective, resilient and flexible with access to faster feedback and results.”

Cambridge International said that digital assessments can “go beyond the limits of paper tests” as they have the potential to be more interactive and give students the chance to demonstrate skills that are more “authentic to the subject”.

Students will be able to demonstrate coding and problem-solving skills which are closer to industry practice in a series of mini tests.

A second International project set to run in 2023 will investigate how a digital A Level history qualification could be examined. It will look at new ways of assessing sources, including capturing annotations digitally and looking at longer sources and curated online source banks.

Rod Smith, group managing director for International Education, said: “We are looking into the future, taking steps forward informed by input from teachers, industry and our researchers.

“We’re building digital-first qualifications around the world, exploring the immense potential for digital exams that can reach beyond the limitations of paper, while offering more flexible and personalised options.”

Exam board Edexcel has said it has similar plans for digital exams, while AQA has also been conducting digital assessment pilots.

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