Examining the Examiner

E-Technology in Examinations

The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council’s vision of becoming “...the centre of excellence within the sub-region and beyond in Quality Assessment in Education”, is in more practical terms, to create an ICT driven organisation. The worldwide trend in the ‘Assessment Community’ is the move towards ICT driven systems, procedures and processes in assessment.
Technological innovations to the traditional methods of assessment, create virtual assessment databases which reduce the amount of human interface, the large scale manual handling of paperwork and greatly reduce costs of running examinations. ZIMSEC, in Africa, is a pioneer in e-marking and is now a case study for Examinations Boards who are still in the process of setting up this system.


ZIMSEC pioneered e-marking in 2010. By June 2011 the first set of national examinations that is Ordinary Level Mathematics and Integrated Science, were marked electronically.
March 2012 saw the introduction of electronic registration for Advanced Level. The 2012 Ordinary level June Session was used as a pilot test to check the practicality of the system on a large scale. To date, Ordinary Level and Grade Seven have been integrated into the system with resounding success. They have not been without challenges though:-

Fear of the unknown posed the biggest threat to the system but, as time went on and as users began to appreciate how this technology improved the way they carried out their business, the system has gained both the organisation’s and stakeholder acceptance.

 

The hardware challenges expected have also been largely resolved through sharing in clusters and subsequent acquisitions by those centres that initially did not have their own equipment. The improved revenues in collected levies (now only used for development projects) have seen virtually all centres acquiring their own hardware.

 

E-marking is the electronic marking of candidate’s examinations scripts and is the global trend in marking the candidate’s examination script. This method of marking, as mentioned above, reduces the amount of human interface, unlike in belt marking, therefore reducing the risks of undetected human error and prejudice. Once the script is scanned into the system where the e-marker software is, the examiner marks and allocates marks according to the set answers that would have been inputted into the system. This means, if there is an error or query pertaining to the marks, the system is able to pick it up immediately and the Chief examiners are able to attend to it. With e-marking, there is real time delivery of marks, that is, the marks are automatically sent to the ZIMSEC database. In essence, the turnaround time for marking is significantly reduced because there is no bulk handling of scripts and there is no filling in of mark sheets after the marking session.


Subjects that are e-marked at the moment are those with constrained components such as, Ordinary Level Mathematics I, Integrated Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Commerce, Principles of Accounts and English I. The software developers are now looking at creating e-marker II which will enable the marking of unconstrained components which are in the essay format and so opening the possibility of marking Advanced level examinations electronically.


These innovations and more that are soon to be rolled out, are all with the ultimate goal of reducing costs in examinations administration, increasing security of examination materials and reducing the reliance on human handling of the examination papers before and after their writing.
ZIMSEC- For Performance Measurement

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