E-marking is here to stay

30th July 2004 at 01:00
I would like to clarify several issues following the article on onscreen marking (TES, July 7).

The standard, structure and content of exam papers remains exactly the same with onscreen marking, as the technology has been designed to suit them. We successfully piloted this technology in November 2003, January and March 2004 and went live this summer.

Essay questions can be marked onscreen as easily as simple answers and we have no plans to alter the current balance between long and short-answer questions. I, personally, am sceptical of the value of multiple choice.

Scanning allows us to send electronically single questions to examiners, resulting in improved accuracy and speed, plus the benefit of feedback to schools on an individual question basis. This has been welcomed by those taking part this summer.

In addition we can allocate questions that have basic short answers to professional markers in our marking centres. These markers, only 1 per cent of our on-screen examiners, are trained to answer specific questions. Their work is checked and they are constantly monitored.

Edexcel will successfully mark over 1.6 million papers onscreen this year.

This proven technology brings many benefits to the whole system through improved security, more accuracy, less bureaucracy, more useful analysis and the early publication of results. This system could allow six examiners marking one script in contrast to one examiner marking 300 across two centres. It is undeniably fairer and more professional. The technologies of onscreen marking, on-line assessment and electronic portfolios are here to stay.

We look forward to continuing to improve and modernise the examination system.

John Kerr Chief executive, Edexcel Stewart House 32 Russell Square, London WC1

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