As part of a radical’ experiment, up to 100 school pupils will be able to take English and maths tests online in this academic year. This could lead A-levels and GCSEs becoming digital by 2025. 

The pilot program, organized by AQA (the examination board that provides three-fifths of all GCSEs in England), is currently being implemented in between 60 and 100 schools. 

The trial will see the pupils taking interactive tests that allow them to change how difficult or easy they answer in real-time, according to The Times.

This means that students in two sets of papers will no longer need to receive separate papers. 

This’significant trial’, which will run for hundreds of thousand of pounds, is the result of two years worth of serious disruptions from Covid-19.

Exams were cancelled and replaced with teacher-led assessments, leading to wide-spread grade inflation, with 45 per cent of A-levels graded A* or A last summer.   

Online papers cannot be used for testing purposes. The tests will take place in spring or autumn. 

Secretary of state for education Nadhim Zahawi said technology 'can be a force for good in education'

Nadhim Zhawi Secretary of State for Education said technology “can be a force to good in education.” 

Colin Hughes, the chief executive of AQA, told The Times that if online exams were adopted on a large scale, some written tests would be kept to protect handwriting from dying out among young people (file photo)

Colin Hughes, chief executive at AQA, stated to The Times that online exams would soon be adopted by large numbers of people. He also said that written tests will still be used in order to prevent handwriting becoming a dying art form among youth (file photo). 

These will serve as a test of the viability or otherwise of an online assessment.  

Nadhim Zhawi Secretary of State, Education: “After the disruptions to exams and qualifications in the last two years, my focus is now on the exams this summer in person with adaptations to maximize fairness.

“Technology can have a powerful impact on education. This can happen in any sector. And I’m determined to push the boundaries to discover where technology can take us.   

Colin Hughes, chief executive at AQA, stated to The Times that online exams would soon be adopted by large numbers of people. However, written tests will still be available in order to prevent handwriting becoming a dying art form among the young.

But he claimed that online exams would make it cheaper and be better for the planet.

AQA is one of the three major exam boards. It handles over 12 million papers each summer, creating 600 tonnes CO2.

These emissions do not include the emission from lorries that transport them from exam halls throughout the country. Plastic packaging is also created by the papers.

OCR and Edexcel will monitor and closely inspect the pilots. These will contain straightforward GCSE or A-level questions. This is in preparation for the introduction of online testing beginning in 2025.

A sophisticated program that allows for adaptive real-time assessment of students will also be tested on young pupils. This could lead to their introduction at the GCSE level. 

The adaptive assessment test is a group of pupils who all begin at the same level. But, the questions are more challenging for students performing well. 

This could eliminate the requirement for higher and basic papers at GCSE. These can prevent some from achieving the highest grades while others in the latter may be at risk.  

The pilots, which will feature straight forward GCSE and A-level questions, will be closely watched by not only the government but also OCR and Edexcel, the other two exam boards - with a view to bringing in online testing as early as 2025 (file photo)

These pilots will include straight-forward GCSE/A-level questions and will be closely monitored by the government as well as OCR (Ocean Council) and Edexcel (the other two exams boards), with a view towards introducing online testing in 2025. File photo

Mr Hughes told the Times: ‘If you were to design an exam system from scratch, would you start by thinking by far the best idea is to is to print millions of examination papers, staple, wrap in plastic, send them around the country under secure conditions, drive them all to Milton Keynes, chop, scan and digitise them — as opposed to what we’re going to experiment with next year: pupils view the questions on screen, key in their answers, save them and in principle two seconds later they can appear in front of somebody ready to mark. It’s quite a drastic shift.

Hughes stated that adaptive assessment was not an expensive technology and is available right now. 

“The fear that students will take different examinations from one another is what people are afraid of.” 

“But, you have to figure out how one compares with the other.” This test has the immense virtue of allowing pupils to take their test at their own pace and show what they are capable of in the given time. 

These adaptive assessments will be provided in Wales for children between seven and fourteen years of age. Standardised adaptive assessments in Scotland have already been developed for those aged five to eighteen, eleven, and thirteen. 

Hughes stated that concerns about students cheating on the internet will be addressed during the trial. Some schools may use a small tablet or smartpad device, which can not connect to the internet, but still runs the test. 

He claimed that if the online test was made available, then students could begin A-levels or GCSEs with confidence knowing that they will be taking online exams from the very beginning.