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'I have seen the future of tests and it clicked for me'

IF computerised testing is the future, it seems to work, The TES can report, after sampling an on-screen key skills examination this week.

Since last month, students have been able to sit adult and key skills tests in numeracy, literacy and information and communications technology in front of a screen.

The tests are not strictly online, however. Candidates have to take them in special examination centres - they are running at 30 locations at the moment - rather than at home.

The "papers" are downloaded from the internet by the test centre before an examination, and students are barred from surfing the net for information.

The tests are marked electronically but it takes 10 days for students to get their results, as the boards may have to make adjustments to pass rates to reflect a test's difficulty.

So do they work? The system certainly appeared extremely user-friendly and simple. I took 12 multiple-choice questions, featuring four questions in all three subjects. The material was well presented and it really was as simple as pointing my mouse at the chosen answer and clicking.

Another click accesses the next question, and it is easy to skip questions or to go back and change an answer if you have second thoughts.

These tests are simple examples of where computerisation could be heading.

They are exact on-screen copies of the conventional key and adult skills tests, whose multiple-choice format makes them ideal for online testing.

Edexcel and its Northern Irish counterpart, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, have also been trialling computerised GCSE exams in physics, chemistry, biology and geography which use, for example, animation to illustrate questions.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in England is much more cautious about them because they would probably imply changes in the content of the exams.

Just in case you were wondering, The TES scored 10 out of 12 in the mock test, apparently a pass. Well, I can't blame the technology for those two wrong answers.

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