If you're getting bogged down compiling endless tests and worksheets, check out the assessment software, testbase. Its bank of QCA questions is proving popular
Compared with some of the latest software on the market, testbase is an unassuming product - not a multimedia feature in sight. But what it does do is make llife much easier for teachers. In fact, testbase does this so well that since its launch in 2000, it's been bought by more than half the schools in England.
So what do you get for your money? The answer is, rather a lot. First testbase offers a bank of QCA national test questions for key stages 1 to 3 in English, maths and science. That alone would make this product worth considering, but there's more to testbase. A clever search system lets you find questions by topic, level, type or year. Maths questions can be selected by the Department for Education and Skills National Numeracy Strategy references and for science, you can select questions against the QCA science schemes of work. The beauty of the product is its flexibility; testbase can be used for assessment, monitoring pupil progress and setting benchmarks of achievement.
Getting the software up and running is easy. Once installed, you then unlock each subject using a password. At first sight, the testbase home screen can appear daunting, but after a few minutes most users should get the hang of it. On the left-hand side is the question finder window, which you can scroll down to find a specific question. When you click on a question, it appears in a large viewer window on the right. At the top of the viewer window is a small tool bar and it's here that you get to appreciate the power of testbase. Click on one button and you instantly see the mark scheme for the question. Click another and you can see how pupils performed on the question (the disc includes examiners' comments for specific questions since 1999). Another button gives you related links to the question, such as relevant exemplars.
At the top of the home screen is another button used for compiling your own test sheets. By clicking on selected questions you can create a customised worksheet. The worksheet can be printed out or exported for editing.
In short, this is an excellent product that makes it incredibly easy to search, find and compile QCA questions and worksheets.
Fitness for purpose 55
Ease of use 45
Value for money 55
Key Stage 1 amp; 2. Key Stage 2 amp; 3. Windows CD-Rom. pound;40 per subject per user. pound;20 update price per subject per current user (20 per cent discount if two or more subjects are bought. All prices ex-VAT).
DoublestruckQCA www.testbase.co.uk 0870 9000 402
Phil Mercer (above) is department leader for years 5 and 6 and ICT co-ordinator at Selsdon Primary School in Croydon. "I tend to use testbase at the end of a topic. It's easy to find concepts you've been teaching in class and then print them off.
"It automatically creates a mark scheme as you produce a test and that saves a lot of time. Instead of taking two or three hours to create a test, I can do it in minutes.
"If you're PC-savvy, you'll find testbase accessible. I do have one concern though, there are changes to the QCA mark schemes due that are not covered in this version of the software."
Ann Cavanagh is assessment co-ordinator at St Anne's RC Primary School in Liverpool: "We use testbase primarily as a follow-up to our goal assessments. You can get a really good analysis of what you've done with the children. We look at our weakest points and we always try to slot on work that the children haven't performed well in.
"We use the worksheets for homework and for making mini-tests. It's a great tool for creating differentiated activities. If you had to root through all these tests on paper, it would take you hours to find the relevant topics.
"The examiners' reports tell you the common faults, which is a very useful feature.
My only complaint is that if you're not ICT-literate, testbase can seem a little frightening at first."
Note: The changes planned from next May will mainly be for Maths and Science at Key Stage 3. The testbase and QCA websites plan to provide all the necessary support material.