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A do-it-all testing product

Exampro for GSCE Double Award NEAB Science. CD-Rom for PC, Pounds 94 per subject (other GCSEA-level titles available: mathematics, English and French). Helix Educational Software, 71 Stamford Street East, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire OL6 6QQ. Tel: 0161 342 2020. Fax: 0161 343 4380.

Setting tests and mock exams can be a time-cosuming chore. If you want a test that matches what you have covered with your class, there is little choice but to pick at past papers, cutting and sticking the questions that suit. And then there's a nice night in ahead, making up a mark scheme. The simple solution is to put the lot into a computer database, fish out the topics you have covered and send the questions off to print. This is exactly what Exampro does.

In this Double Science edition, you start with a list of nearly 1,000 questions - that's around 90 hours of examination time - and start to whittle them down. From a list of national curriculum topics, you can pick all the past questions about the universe, genetics or atomic structure, and find about 20 questions on each. You can click on a button to see each question in detail, see which syllabus topics it covers and look at the answers wanted. Yet another click tells what the chief examiner had to say about the candidates' responses.

What remains is to copy the questions you want to your exam - satisfyingly done by dragging them from one screen window to another. If you want to add, say, a title page or add your own questions, this you can do, too. You can re-order the questions, edit them, add your own pictures and adjust where the questions break over pages. It also totals up the marks available and the time allowed, and prints the test, mark scheme, and syllabus points covered.

It's hard to find something that you can't do: you can sift the questions by level, namely foundation, intermediate or higher, or by types of question like short answers, prose answers or calculations. If you just wanted questions from the co-ordinated science, November 1994, you can pick these out, too.

The manual, covering 16 pages, is a good sign of an easy-enough-to-use program. I'd prefer one or no pages but it's worth working through, making a few papers to get up to speed. A few things need patience, such as editing or adding questions. Presumably for copyright reasons, you can't export anything to a word processor. Technical support, which I tested, was good and available.

Exampro has been around a couple of years, and this year's version is new and smarter looking. The price has to be seen against the task of feeding real past papers (these start from 1994) into a computer, re-drawing the pictures and using an intelligent eye to classify what the exam boards have set. Those sceptical about other software could find here a rare new something which actually does us a favour. In that sense, this is value for money and easy to recommend for saving time and sticky fingers.

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