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The write stuff;Software

ON the other side of revision tools is an entirely different breed of software. Imagine banks of past exam questions that let you assemble a paper-based test. The key brand name is Exampro, which offers a package that matches your syllabus and lets you create a mock paper complete with a mark scheme. But this is just touching the surface of what is possible when you put things on a computer.

If you have not covered every topic in time for the mock, it is no matter to remove them and have Exampro recalculate the marks. If you want a test that lasts 30 minutes, the package tells you how long is allowed for each question. And if you want to produce revision material because the class needs to brush up on photosynthesis or punctuation you can produce custom material quite quickly.

Reports from schools speak highly of Exampro - they say they select easier questions for younger groups, or make exams that become progressively harder. Some schools even let their keen pupils make their own papers.

Teachers who want to edit the questions or indeed recycle countless graphics in the package will find themselves with a rich cache of material. Exampro covers GCSE and advanced level syllabi from EdExcel, NEAB and CCA.

Unless your syllabus is particularly special, such as Salter's Science, the 1,000 questions in the double-award GCSE title ought to work well enough with most exam boards.

More recently, versions have arrived for each of the QCA key stages, starting with the tests for age seven and leading to a key stage 4 science title due in the autumn. Teachers will find some intriguing benefits here; for example, at key stage one, you quickly run out of desk space, hopping between guidance notes, questions you ask the pupils, resources sheets, answer sheets and the mark scheme. But now, because the computer information is cross-referenced you can pull all the pieces together in one document.

Also available is the London Mathematics Exambank which contains about 450 questions at foundation, intermediate and higher level GCSE. In essence you gain a huge Microsoft Word file of some 150 pages or so, which lets you create a test at any level. You can also scroll through and select questions, or you can search for curriculum codes such as N2a, N2b or a GCSE grade and choose what you find.

When you are done doing all that, you compile the test and a mark scheme with those curriculum codes alongside. Although this is unexciting and seriously slower than Exampro in question finding, it is a competent product that those who are already familiar with using Word will find easy to get started with.

London Mathematics Exambank costs pound;59.95 for a 5-user licence. Heinemann (tel: 01865 311366) Exampro costs about pound;95 per subject, pound;50 for key stage 1 subjects and this offers a site licence. Until the end of August, older GCSE maths and science titles containing papers up to 1997 are available for pound;50.

Helix (tel: 01384 898969)

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