A PROPOSED new exam that aims to give young people a better grasp of how to manage their money is offering a glimpse of the possible future of testing in Britain.
The certificate in financial studies, which is being piloted in 12 schools from September, is an online qualification which students sit whenever they are ready. Candidates will not take the exam at their school but in the local test centres used by people sitting the theory section of their driving test. The exam - which will have the same point score as an AS-level - will be entirely multiple choice.
The pilot exam will have three modules, covering "why money matters", "risk and reward" and "making judgments".
Students will grapple with subjects ranging from what money is to how financial services providers and regulators work. When they finish studying a module, they are entered for a one-hour exam, answering the multiple-choice questions by touching the computer screen. The questions are not necessarily sequential: different answers can lead a student on to different questions.
The qualification also gives students an instant mark and a grade within two days of them having finished. They can then sit a resit within weeks, though only one resit per module is allowed.
The Institute of Financial Services, which has developed the exam, has been trying out a slightly different version for two years, aimed at young people wanting to work in financial services, rather than a general audience. The latest version of the qualification has yet to win Qualifications and Curriculum Authority accreditation.
The multiple choice aspect will be contentious. Ken Boston, the QCA's chief executive, is wary about entirely computerised tests which sideline essay writing in favour of multiple-choice answers.
However, exam boards and the QCA are investigating online testing. The QCA has recently floated the concept of students sitting exams whenever they are ready, rather than on fixed dates, to allow them to progress at their own rate.
David Gaze, a teacher at St Colomba's college, a private boys' school in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which has been running the current version of the course for 10 students for the past year, said they had really enjoyed it.
He said: "What attracted them to it was the method of testing. These lads are doing A-levels, a lot of them in essay-writing subjects, and here is a qualification that they can sit in a driving test centre without having to do the writing, which they can resit within a couple of weeks if they mess up, and which they can do well before their main exams in the summer."
The qualification gave the students UCAS points for university entry and was seen as a complement to existing AS and A-level qualifications, mainly for students who wanted to go into the banking, insurance or financial services industries.
HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MONEY?
1 Which plastic card has been designed to be used instead of cheques?
A ATM card B Debit card C Credit card D Charge card
2 A person who buys and sells shares and sells them almost immediately for profit is known as a:
A Bear B Bull C Cow D Stag
3 In the context of funds transference, which one of the following methods of payment is cheapest and safest?
A Cheque paid through the clearing system B A cheque that has been specially presented C CHAPS payment D A banker's draft
4 In relation to permanent health insurance, which one of the following is likely to be an exclusion?
A Stroke B Cancer C Kidney failure D Aids
5 The concept of credit scoring has been defined as the measurement of:
A The statistical probability that credit will be repaid B The amount of credit that will be repaid C The rate at which credit will be repaid D Whether the credit will be repaid or not.
ANSWERS: 1 B, 2 D, 3 C, 4 D, 5 A