STUDENTS could sit GCSEs at a computer screen as early as 2006, under plans being piloted by two exam boards.
By the time this year's 10 and 11-year-olds sit their GCSEs the exams might be taken on-line and answers submitted to examiners at the click of a button.
The London exam board Edexcel and Northern Ireland's exam body, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), have launched a pilot project to develop paperless exams.The tests would be marked and returned to the exam board on-line, speeding up the examining process.
Development work is due to begin this September and a small on-screen pilot exam, with GCSE-type questions, is scheduled for next spring.
Examchiefs hope a small number of candidates will take a live GCSE exam by 2004-05 with a national scheme in place by 2006.
Roger McCune, a CCEA development manager, said: "Pupils are becoming increasingly computer literate and the use of the new technologies is increasing in our schools. Although some work has been done before in using technology in small-scale tests, no one as yet has tried to apply it to 'high stakes' exams such as GCSEs.
"Our development work will test the feasibility of providing exam papers to schools on-line, candidates undertaking exams on computer, having their work marked electronically and exam boards reporting results back to schools and pupils electronically."