Online test proves a struggle for TES pen-and-paper man

19th May 2006 at 01:00
As the minutes ticked away, it was clear I was not going to reach the end of the test. Behind me lay a trail of lost marks bearing witness to a desperate, losing struggle with spreadsheets, internet searches, and even emailing.

My ICT skills have always been a bit ropey, and oh boy wasn't that being made clear now?

I had been Invited to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to sit a test. This was the 2005 version, rather than this year's model.

I faced a rigorous examination over 50 minutes. Yet this was the easier of the two difficulty levels pupils can choose, set at national curriculum levels three to five.

The test featured three tasks, each of which was triggered by an email request from a fictional resident of Pepford, the virtual town where the tests are set.

First off, I had to act on a message from the manager of the town's theme park, who wanted me to update an advert with details of the funfair's new attractions.

Information had to be retrieved from the park's website and associated files, then cut and pasted into the advert. It sounds easy, but I think I lost marks by erasing the wrong parts of the advert and failing to find some of the information.

Things really started to go wrong with the next task: updating a spreadsheet of the likely profits that Pepford art gallery would probably make in a month.

Data had to be changed to see how the profits varied as visitor numbers and ticket prices went up and down. I knew I was flummoxed when, half-way through, I gaveup trying to make the thing do what I wanted it to and resorted to trying to work out the answer on pen and paper. Hmm. This, I was told, is forbidden.

I was advised to allow 15 minutes for each answer and got to the final task with only eight left. I was, frankly, in a flap. Asked to create a Powerpoint-style presentation advertising a sports shop, I was just starting to work out where to find the information I needed from websites when time ticked up.

In mitigation, some of my travails might have been explained by a lack of familiarity with the tools the system uses, which have been specially designed for the test.

But this appeared to be a worthwhile test in the skills that office workers now have to master. My final mark? I would have to face another 50-minute ordeal to find out, and I wasn't quite ready for that.

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