Should formal exams move online?

Technology might have impacted on almost every part of life, but exams are still done the old fashion way. While pupils are likely to spend a growing portion of their school work using computers, tablets, or other forms of technology, the vast majority of exams are still completed sitting at a desk with pen and paper. Is it time for formal exams to move into the digital age?

It’s a debate that’s been gaining importance over the last few years and, just like any debate, there are both pros and cons to the argument. From SATs and GCSEs through to university level tests, should formal exams be conducted online?

Advantages of online exams

There are many advantages to creating and enforcing formal tests that can be taken online, including these four.

  • Ensure timings nationwide – Every effort is taken to ensure that pupils all across the country all start their exam at the same time and have the same amount of time to complete it, going digital makes this easy.
  • Reflect technological changes – Exams have been conducted in the same way for decades despite technology changing enormously in that time. Using online exams proves that pupils are computer literate, can type, and posses many other skills that are now considered essential for the workplace.
  • Allows for the use of additional media – Using technology to offer exams can help to make them more engaging and test additional areas. For example, high quality images and videos could be incorporated. It could also present an opportunity to deliver exams that are more inclusive, such as audio-described exams for blind students.
  • Incorporate the role technology plays in modern life – This one is controversial but it’s an important one. Today, it can be argued that students don’t need to memorise key historical dates or complicated formulas, in the real world they’ll be able to access that through smartphones in minutes – should exams reflect this change?
  • Reduce the use of paper – For the environmentally conscious, moving exams online represents a significant opportunity to reduce the amount of paper used and have a positive environmental impact.

Drawbacks of online exams

Of course, on the flipside, there are drawbacks too.

  • Managing use of the internet – While it can be argued that internet access should be allowed during the exam, it will still need to be monitored either way. A student who is excellent at researching online, for example could score better than a pupil who has a far better grasp on the subject matter if internet access was not effectively managed.
  • Risk of cybersecurity – Recent cybersecurity attacks have proven that no organisation is safe. Should exams move online it should be expected they’ll be targeted and investment would be needed to mitigate this risk.
  • Potential for computer errors – Everyone has experienced the feeling of dread when their computer unexpectedly crashes or faces an error. Imagine that happening in an exam. Technology might have advanced, but it can still be unpredictable at times.
  • Access to necessary equipment – School would need to have access to and a setup that allows computers to be used for exams, it could mean needing to invest in further equipment or affecting the work of other pupils. Additionally, not all schools have access to the same level of equipment and this could offer unfair advantages, for example, newer computers that run faster could have a significant impact on the ability to research.

Tags: online exams, formal exams online,

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6 considerations when creating online tests for homework

Online tests can provide an effective homework exercise for pupils of all ages and span a variety of subjects. But, even when you have a tool that makes creating tests simple, there are still some key considerations to bear in mind when you’re putting them together.

  1. How accessible will it be?

If you’re setting online homework, you can’t be sure what device your pupils will be accessing your test from. As a result, it’s important to make sure your test is accessible from the most frequently used electronics, including tablets and smartphones, as well as standard desktop PCs.

  1. Will there be a need for extra media?

Some questions could benefit from additional media that complements the questions, such as photographs, diagrams, videos, or audio clips. It’s a consideration that should, firstly, influence which tool you use, and then how you prepare and set out each question. Without the option of adding extra types of media, you can find yourself limited to the areas that your online test can cover.

  1. What format should the questions take?

As with all tests, there are different ways to set out your questions and which one is most suitable depends on what you want to achieve and the topic. For example, multiple choice questions are perfect for quick maths homework sessions, while long-form answer options may be more appropriate for English literature assignments, luckily DesignATest offers you choice and allows you to blend formats.

  1. What style of language will you use?

Again, this will depend on your overall objective. If you simply want to see if your pupils have grasped a particular subject, keeping language simple and clear is the way forward. But if you’re preparing for exams, for example, it’s a good idea to use the type of language that your students will be faced with on the actual paper.

  1. How easy will the test be to mark?

One of the key benefits of using DesignATest to create online homework is the automated marking. You don’t want to spend hours working through homework if you can help it, taking your time away from other valuable activities. As a result, it’s worth considering how it will be marked beforehand.

  1. What insights will the results offer?

Your homework results should offer some insights into how your class is progressing overall and on an individual level, reflecting how well they’re picking up the study areas. DesignATest makes this part simple, with an easy to use dashboard to gain a quick overview or in-depth perspective.

 

Tags: online tests, homework online test, DesignATest,

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How to use DesignATest to boost SATs revision

For teachers responsible for year six pupils, SATs are fast approaching. For many pupils, it’s the first formal exam they will have sat that will have an impact on their future education and some nerves are definitely to be expected. Luckily, some revision planning can help put them on the right path to achieving their full potential.

If you’re looking for ways to use DesignATest to support your SATs revision, we’ve got a few ideas to help you out.

  1. Assess reading comprehension

Reading comprehension can be difficult to assess and a marking effort to see which children need extra support in this area. Creating a DesignATest that reflects a book you’ve been reading in class means it’s easy to make comprehension a part of daily classroom plans. Through making a test that links to books you’re already covering, you can pick out those you know are at the right level and will engage with your class, while DesignATest means you can quickly identify who is struggling with just a glance thanks to the automated marking.

  1. Practice arithmetic

Sometimes it’s the basic questions that pupils lose marks on because they’re trying to answer them quickly, such as during the arithmetic test. Going through maths questions as quickly as they can, can help your pupils improve their mental arithmetic abilities and reduce the number of mistakes they’re making.

  1. Measure spelling and punctuation ability

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are one of the key topics of KS2 SATS and, as a result, it should be a core revision topic. It’s an area that multiple-choice options with DesignATest can help. From picking out which word is spelt correctly to identifying the sentence with the correct comma positioning, it can help children recognise the correct SPAG and feed into their written work too. It’s a useful way to assess how much has sunk in during a class SPAG revision session.

  1. Allow long-form answers

One of the things that makes DesignATest so useful, is the ability to mix multiple choice and long-form answers. On the SATs papers, they’ll be expected to give longer answers for some of the questions, but it can be an area that some children struggle with, especially when a single paper uses a mixture of different questions. Getting to grips with how much time and detail to go into for each question can improve time allocation on exam day.

 

Tags: SATs revision, SATs resource, SATs teacher support

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What is the DesignATest database and how to use it?

DesignATest was created to make accessing vital resources easier for teachers and place a new tool in their hands to reduce time making and create engaging tests that are aimed at their students. From primary school children through to students in further education, we’re building a database that could benefit you.

Firstly, what’s DesignATest? It’s an online tool that lets you create customised online tests and can provide automatic marking. As a result, it’s an ideal tool for quickly assessing pupils, from an individual level through to measuring how a whole year group is performing.  It allows you to track progress, tailor classes, identify where extra support is needed, and save valuable time on marking.

We know how important sharing is in the teaching community, and that’s why we created the DesignATest database. Whenever you create a test, you can opt to share it with others using our platform and you have access to those that have been shared too. Why is that a benefit? We’ve got several reasons for you:

  • Search by topic – We make it easy to search for peer reviewed tests across a huge range of topics, from maths to drama. With the ability to browse through tests that have been created by experts in their field, you can find ones that match your plans.
  • Match to your classes attainment – With a database at your disposal, you can find an online test that matches the overall attainment level of your class. With the customisable feature, it’s possible to set variations to suit different ability groups.
  • Find inspiration – Sometimes you just need some inspiration, and our database can help you with that. Whether you want to get some ideas on how to set out your tests or the types of questions to ask, DesignATest can be an invaluable resource.
  • Speed up planning – Our database can make the planning process easier and significantly reduce the amount of time spent on it. With a subject area in mind, you can find a link to an online test in just minutes.
  • Make setting homework simple – If you want to set quick, online assessments to be completed at home, our database is useful here too. It allows you to set our revision or further studying options without taking your time away from other vital areas.

 

Tags: DesignATest, online test teachers, class test teachers,

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How regular testing supports student development

The debate over how frequently children should face formal exams is continuing to rage. But there’s no denying that regular testing can provide a valuable way to support student development.

Those against testing argue that it can place unnecessary stress on children and shift a focus away from learning to parroting information. However, when used in an informal classroom setting, there are many benefits to regular testing students of all ages, including these five:

Assess individual performance

Tests provide you with a simple way to assess how each pupil within your class is progressing towards their goals. It gives you a chance to provide targeted intervention and additional support if it’s needed by highlighting where a child is struggling before it’s left too late or has an impact on the next stage of the topic.

Highlight topics that need revisiting

As well as giving an individual view, tests can also provide an overview of your whole class. It can indicate if you need to revisit a topic or approach a particular challenge in a new way to help your pupils gain a good grasp, whether it’s a maths technique or a historical event. It allows you to see which ways of teaching your class respond to.

Keep previous topics fresh in the mind

Teachers will often find that their class excels at a particular area, only for it to have been completely forgotten about by the following term. Having tests on areas that have previously been covered, helps with memory recall and keeping past topics fresh in the mind of your entire class.

It gives students a clear indication of how they’re performing

It’s important for students to understand how they’re progressing and doing in class too, whether you’re teaching at a primary or secondary level. Test results make it clear where extra work needs to be put in to boost overall grades and reach targets.

It prepares students for their exams

Exams are part of the educational system and being prepared for them helps pupils of all ages perform to the best of their ability. Making tests a part of regular school work helps to place students in a good position for the exams they’re working towards.

Here at DesignATest, we make it simple to create and use online tests that help to support student development and keep track of how they’re progressing.

Tags: testing students, online tests schools, student development,

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4 time saving tips for teachers

It’s well documented that the workload of teachers can be a heavy one; spending all day teaching and once the pupils and students have left for the day the marking, planning and preparing for the next day begins. Plus, there is so much more now that teachers must do to adhere to policies for not only the educational establishment they work in but also government directives.

Saving time and resources where possible is probably on your mind if you’re in the teaching profession – here are some tips to try and save time in your working day and maybe mean you won’t be working into the weekend!

Prioritise and schedule

It might seem obvious that you need to have a structure to your day, but it doesn’t just apply to the teaching time. If you have marking to do then allocate a set amount of time to complete it, prioritise the items that are essential and leave less urgent tasks until later in the week. Some people live by lists and they tend to be more organised as a result.

Streamline processes

Depending on the age of the students or pupils you’re teaching then they’ll be easier to get into the habit of helping you streamline your processes. Daily tasks like registering can be done by the individual rather than the onus being on the teacher to spend 10-15 mins ticking off a list of names as they arrive for the day of learning. Using an online resource for your materials like DesignATest could also save you time when you’re planning lessons.

Allocate one day to stay late

If you know you won’t get everything done in the time you have then allocate a day to stay late and power through a list of tasks that have been hanging around for a while. The hours after lessons finish are a good time to get on with some of the housekeeping requirements of the job.

Delegate

A lot of your time could be taken up with some of the non-teaching tasks that being a teaching professional entails. If you teach children then you have a whole host of little helpers to delegate to – choose a team each week who are in charge of making sure the classroom is tidy, or that books and equipment are all returned to where they should be, pencils and crayons are sharpened or coats are all tidily on pegs – you could also reward their efforts with a certificate. This will not only make your load lighter but will instil a feeling of pride and responsibility into the children each week.

 

Tags: time saving tips, teaching tips, saving time teacher

5 tips for creating online tests that are engaging

When you’re creating online tests, you want to keep your audience engaged and avoid the risk of them getting bored or distracted to give them the best possible chance of success. The popularity of your tests will be proven when users come back time and time to see what’s new on offer and actively seek out your content to further their skills and knowledge. Here are five tips for making your tests stand out from the crowd.

Use positive language

Users want to feel like they have a good chance of passing your test, or teachers looking for resources want to use something that will encourage their students to strive for the best. Positive language will create confidence that no matter the outcome they can achieve something from taking part.

Include images

Visual stimulation will make the brain work in a different way to reading text. Use images where suitable to make the user adapt quickly to different mediums and challenge their brain power. Images can also be used to help with questions where the answer may be subjective depending on how much attention to details is required.

Set a clear goal

A plainly set out introduction to your test explaining the reasoning behind it and what it is aimed at achieving will help the user to focus on the task ahead. Knowing the thinking behind what they’re doing could also to help to formulate how they approach the task. Outline what the basic skills are that are being tested, the time it should take to complete and an indication of where the pass mark might be.

Avoid true or false questions

True or false questions might not necessarily test ability and if you give people the 50/50 option they may just take the chance instead of thinking about their answer properly. One or two true or false questions might be ok to include but a whole test in that format is going to be a little bit dull for your users.

Vary the type of questions

As mentioned in the above tip, true or false aren’t always the most stimulating of test questions. Try and have a variety of requirements of the user. For example, multiple choice, ordering tasks, labelling etc. This will keep the student on their toes throughout as they won’t know what’s coming next.

At DesignATest we have all the advice and resources on hand to help you create and share engaging material for both teachers and students alike.

Tag: online tests, designing online tests, engaging test questions

How to cut down the time you spend marking without compromising

Any teacher knows the feeling of being faced with a mountain of work to mark. It can feel like an impossible task and pile on the pressure when you’re already struggling to keep up with lesson planning, creating engaging ideas, and getting to know your students. If it’s an area that you want to spend less time on, we’ve got five tips to cut the chore down without your pupils suffering.

One-on-one marking

Sometimes referred to as live marking, this is a technique that’s increasingly being used by teachers working across all ages and it can add extra value to the students. It involves calling up students one by one, while the rest of the class is working through an exercise, and going through their results verbally. It’s a great marking option for work that’s more subjective, such as extended writing pieces.

Use online testing

Creating and using existing online tests can eliminate a portion of your marking altogether. An online test can give your students instant results once completed, whether it’s set as part of classwork or you’re using an online tool for homework. With the tech taking care of the marking, you can simply pick up the results and see where extra work needs to be done to get your students comfortable with the topic.

Mark and grade a handful of pieces

Rather than going through every piece of work, marking and grading a cross-section of your class can still provide you with insights. It will give you a clear overview of how your class has picked up a given topic and their grasp on the challenges set. Add to this method by going through the marking process with the class, giving them the information they need to make improvements and understand what they should be looking for without the need to mark a full class’ work every time.

Gallery critique

Using gallery critique as part of your lessons can be really helpful to pupils. It’s a method where multiple peers will review a piece of work, with students receiving a variety of useful feedback as a result. There are some flaws in the technique and it will take some practice to get your pupils used to the method, but it can save you time and presents a learning opportunity both when the feedback is received and when the student critique work themselves.

Tags: teacher marking, teacher marking tips, school marking tips,

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7 steps to making your classroom more environmentally friendly

You likely already take steps to reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact at home, so why not think about how you can make your classroom more environmentally friendly this term? We’ve got seven tips that can help get you started.

  1. Encourage recycling

If you’ve noticed your classroom bins are often overflowing, it might be time to make recycling a part of your students’ day. From the packaging from lunchtime snacks to paper that’s been used, encouraging recycling can have a big impact. Having a colourful, dedicate recycle area that’s clear, will help even the youngest pupils create more environmentally friendly habits.

  1. Repurpose scrap paper

Classrooms are filled with paper that’s waiting to be thrown away. Repurposing the paper that’s already been used, such as using display papers for other craft projects or turning over worksheets to take quick notes, will cut down the overall amount of paper being used. Combine it with your recycling efforts and you’ll benefit the environment even more.

  1. Reduce electricity consumption

From turning off the lights to putting electronics on sleep mode when they’re not in use, there are a lot of small habits you can do to reduce the amount of energy that’s being used in your classroom. It’s something that many pupils will already be used to at home, and with a bit of encouragement, you can transfer this thinking to school too.

  1. Utilise online resources

Technology has become essential in the classroom environment and it can help you boost your green credentials too. Rather than always printing out worksheets for class exercises and homework, try using online resources, such as DesignATest, to significantly cut back on the amount of paper you’re regularly using.

  1. Create your own online resources

This step is particularly useful if you’re teaching at a secondary school or in further education. Rather than printing out your usual materials, make them available online. It will save you time and ensure that pupils can find the resources when they need them too.

  1. Choose eco-friendly products

A swap from one brand to another can give your classroom a boost in eco credentials. For example, choosing pens, pencils, and paper that are made with sustainability in mind or crafted using recycled goods, can be useful and serve as a lesson to students.

  1. Display some plants

Do your part for boosting the number plants in the world by having some displayed in your classroom. It’s an opportunity to teach children about the importance of preserving nature, give pupils some responsibility, and it will brighten up your teaching space too.

 

Tags: environmentally friendly classroom, green classroom, tips for environmentally friendly school,

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