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Software to answer all test questions

ITS CREATORS describe it as the most powerful teaching resource of its kind in the world. And from this month, every state school in England will have a copy.

TestBase is a computer database of papers from the last five years of national curriculum tests. Teachers can use it to generate customised practice tests for pupils at the click of a mouse.

The software, on a single CD, is being distributed to schools by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Teachers can instruct the software to find questions on a particular topic, or a particular level of difficulty, from throughout the five years of the tests.

Once a set of questions has been selected, the answers, as provided by the authority's original marking scheme, can also easily be printed out.

The system identifies which part of the national curriculum each question relates to, and even provides examiners' comments for all the 1999 questions.

The authority reckons that the product is powerful enough to allow a teachr to select and print off a set of questions, complete with marking scheme, in under a minute. It also includes the authority's annual standards reports for each subject, and numerous other features.

Laura Lassman, the project's manager, said: "We have seen similar databases of questions in other countries, but none which allows teachers to make up test papers in this way. We hope it will give teachers more time to teach."

The disk, which has taken seven years to develop, is being sent to schools from Monday, January 24. However, it is not free. Schools have to pay pound;25 to get a password to use the software in each stage of each subject area. Subjects offered are English and maths at key stages 1, 2 and 3, and science at key stages 2 and 3.

However, once the fee is paid, the information can be copied onto disk and circulated to all teachers in a school. TestBase operates on Windows 95 and 98.

The national hotline for TestBase enquiries, open from Monday, is 0870 9000 402.

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