Paper Exams: It’s a Numbers Game

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Research conducted on behalf of TES has revealed shocking results. The research predicts with great accuracy how many words students must write to get a good grade in English exams.

English teachers up and down the country will now be able to accurately answer the age old exam question;

‘How much do I need to write?!’

Extremely long answers don’t seem to deliver the best results and students have been able to attain good results with relatively short answers. It has emerged for GCSE English essays that there is a base of around 700 words to be in the top percentiles. However after 700 words grades either remain the same or begin to diminish. The study cites an example of two students who wrote in excess of 1200 words but only achieved a grade C in the essay. This is contrasted by a considerable group of pupils who were awarded an A* having only written around 400 words. You don’t need to strain your wrist to get the bests grades. It really is quality rather than quantity.


The research also revealed an absolute minimum to grade at all with papers of less than 200 words all being graded U. There is also a grade B threshold of 300 words; no papers under 300 words managed to get higher than B. On average the group of student who do achieve A*- B  write slightly longer answers. High quality condensed answers seem to be favoured by examiners.

Even for the longest essays, the average mark achieved by candidates never reached the top A* grade boundary. The research concluded that the best strategy is to write two pages of A4, with clear and accurate paragraphs. This statistically gives the pupil the best chance of being in the top percentiles.

However beyond the 700 word threshold there is no real correlation between grades and words written.

It is only now that we are able to gain insights like this, perhaps because of the techno-phobia of schools and examining bodies. The reality is that many children can type faster than they can write. We inhibit the child’s ability to achieve the best possible grade because of the medium we force them to do it in. English teachers always say;

“Your hand writing doesn’t matter that much as long as the examiner can read it.”

Researcher argue that hand writing bares little representation of academic ability. You may have been shocked by your GP’s or even solicitors hand writing, but you wouldn’t think them incompetent or incapable. This is not the case however for examiners. Whilst the examiner will try to extract what the child has written, they can be forgiven for not trying as hard once they have marked 300 identical papers. The vast majority of professional writing is typed, every  position now requires a high level of computer literacy. Like it or not, handwriting will become more of a novelty, as we swap pen and paper for smart phones and laptops. We should all work hard to make paper a thing of the past, there is a certain irony to cutting down trees to write biology questions about trees.

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Online Assessment Creator

Now you can do your bit as well; why not set up class tests, quizzes and activities online. DesignaTest lets you set multiple choice and exam style questions and marks them automatically!


Generate Tests All Over The Globe

You can now generate online tests no matter where you are in the world. It is working wonders for developing countries.

Schools in the UK can help schools in the developing world by sharing their knowledge online. As we eek into an evermore globalised and connected world, the need for an international testing standard will only increase. A major problem for employers is that they now have job candidates from all over the world but struggle to assess the weight of an applicants qualifications.

One way to help the developing world is by sharing the bank of knowledge and resources we have in the west using new technologies. Some developing countries have standardised national exams, some do not, however it is now possible to share exams written by experts across the globe.

At DesignATest we have a test bank where teachers all around the globe can access exams written by renowned professionals. It also works in reverse in that teachers in developing countries can also share their exams. This offers insight into curriculum’s all around the world. It also allows teachers to generate online tests really quickly, and whit automatic marking their workload is halved.

The idea that a child could be doing the online test in London whilst at the same time a child could be sitting the same test in Nairobi is very exciting. As the internet finds it’s way to the remotest corners of the earth it is revolutionising education. Access to infinite information delivered in less than the blink of an eye with the input of keywords into Google. Young, old, rich and poor online learning continues to liberate people all around the world.

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We are in the infancy of something that is changing the world forever. It does however mean more competition in the workplace and it is important to prepare young people for the 21st century workplace. That is no longer a place of endless photocopying and handwritten documents. We’re all worried about AI taking over our jobs, why are we still insisting the bulk of education be done in analogue?

We don’t put ‘computer literacy’ as a skill on our CV’s it’s just expected for all professional positions. In this global market technological expertise is a bargaining chip.

The vast majority of staff in both Twitter and Facebook headquarters in San Francisco are not American. Tech companies struggle to recruit qualified people in the west. This is because of a reluctance to teach computing and internet based subjects.

Countries like India and China have simply surpassed the west in terms of technological expertise, and the clear focus on Mathematics in Asian education only compliments this.

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With DesignATest you can generate online tests, multiple choice quizzes  in minutes. You get access to a whole world of knowledge.

AQA Broke the Rules

Is it time to switch to online assessment creator? Exam providers the AQA has been forced to take action this week following reprimands from the qualifications regulator Ofqual, reports come amid a remarking scandal. The AQA  has admitted it did not follow remarking procedure correctly on many of its GCSE and A level papers.

The response from the AQA states that Ofqual “identified increases of marks and grades” from the 2017 GCSE and A level exams.

THE REMARKING is “considered to be inconsistent with fully compliant application” of the rules. The AQA now insists it is correcting the issue and addressing internal concerns to ensure they are fully compliant.

Most inconsistencies were with the GCSE English paper  Ofqual established that there was a hike in GCSE grades being changed – up 52 per cent on last year. Ofqual notices that an unusual number of students had submitted successful review cases, whereby the examining body remarks the paper and adjusts marks and ultimately grades.

Sally Collier – chief examiner – remarked she is “very disappointed” at the increase, appearing before an MP’s education select committee,

. She stated: “Some exam boards have implemented it very well, and some exam boards haven’t”.

The AQA recognised that “it failed to secure full compliance.”

The exam board has entered into a contract with the regulator to review and retrain its marker. The AQA has also committed to making clear “the circumstances in which changes of marks are appropriate, and in which they are not”.

This comes as some examining bodies prepare to enter the realm of digital marking. It may even mean the end of the remarking process altogether given that automatic marking is far more objective than a human marker.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has stated it intends to switch over to computer based exams and marking by 2020. Automatic marking gets rid of human error. It allows the exam body to make real economic savings over traditional paper exams.

Craft your own online test today and discover the power of online marking. You also get access to a bank of ready made tests created by experts in their filed.

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Show The Middle Finger to Paper Exams

Look at your middle finger on your writing hand, see that little bump? It was probably caused by the hundreds of thousands words you wrote at school with a temperamental Biro.  We still expect students to frantically etch out their futures writing exams for hours at a time. But could digital exams and online quiz makers be the answer?

The Guardian reports that the Children’s Literacy Charity, complained that children are increasingly emailing Santa, rather than the traditional stamped letter to the North Pole.

Adults find little sympathy for young people being expected to write everything by hand. Of course we raise the point ‘I did it’, but it isn’t a fond memory. Perhaps we fail to hear their plight because so much of our own world consists of typed text. When was the last time you sat down at your writing bureau to pen a letter?


We don’t expect them to write out their CV’s by hand nor do they apply to further education in scrappy scroll. It is unfair to children who don’t quite develop their handwriting to exacting standards, they are penalised unnecessarily if the marker can’t read it on first glance.

writers bump


Children do retain information that it is written marginally better than typing, retention is not the aim. Handwriting in many instances hinders young people marks as they are more used to typing. They can type far quicker than they can write, and are missing out on marks they might otherwise receive.

Online Quiz Makers

Online quiz makers for teachers are frequently used to revise exam content, but when it comes to sitting the exam nothing has changed for about 300 years. Except perhaps the ink is now conveniently within the pen, and we’re not dabbing our feathers.

Schools simply must invest in digital exams and revision quizzes online, in this period of austerity it is no longer financially  sustainable to have the whole country doing paper tests. Physicality means the tests must be transported for miles as they’re sent round to markers, second markers then to HQ.

DesignATest is a really easy but very clever online testing platform. With automatic marking you can cut your workload in half, and save lots of trees at the same time!

The platform gives you access to the test bank, you can set pre-designed tests by leading experts in their field.

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Handwriting a Thing of The Past?


Handwriting is most definitely here to stay, and it is difficult to imagine a world where we would be able to live without the art. That said, it is not as important as the education system thinks it is.

In reality it is more useful to teach children how to type before they can write, given it is a great way to learn letters and the dexterous nature of a keyboard is far easier to learn than the crafted swoosh of a pen.

In the workplace handwriting is confined to personal notebooks. Would you ever submit a formal document in handwriting to your boss, never. People still cringe when they receive a handwritten receipt. So why do we require the vast majority of school work to be handwritten?

It’s estimated that adults currently type 70% of their writing. As the lines between the real and cyber spheres blur, what percentage would a child born today come to type?

Time to Change?  

Its clear that we should be teaching QWERTY not ABC if we are to fully prepare young people to compete in a globalised world.

There is systemic under funding as far as technology is concerned. There is also a training gap whereby technology can go unused in schools in favour of traditional ‘technical problem free’ methods. Pupils often gasp at some teachers lack of technical knowledge as they struggle to perform basic tasks like finding where to put a cable.

DesignATest is one technology changing the way we do testing. It is an easy and engaging way to create class tests and quizzes and helps educators assess individual student progression.

With multiple choice, long and short form answers as well as exam style questions you can fully assess achievement. Automatic marking and grading also cuts the teachers workload in half.

You can also communicate with colleagues and parents about matters of concern with the integrated emailing system. Students login with a simple pin code and can access tests at any time.

You’ll also get access to a test bank overflowing with ready made tests, created by experts in their field. Another great feature is that you can also include your own videos, slide shows and images into the learning process.

We’ll never truly wave goodbye to handwriting, but perhaps it will occupy a more novel and sentimental place rather than a practical function. Platforms like DesignATest are the future of learning; offering schools and teachers the opportunity to enter the digital sphere in a measured way.

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SATS Exams Cost The Tax Payer £44M a Year!

The new regime of SATS exams are costing the tax payer around £44m. The Department for Education (DfE) SATS spending has increased by 9% in just one year. Online exams can eradicate the cost of marking exams.
 The largest expense was £20.5 million on key stage 2 marking, according to the teachers organisation TES. They obtained the figures from the DfE through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The new SATS system was designed to compliment a tougher curriculum that was put in place from September 2015.

Ofqual, the exams regulator, remarked that the SATS in the 2015/2016 round were “unduly hard”.

Parents are up in arms about the reading segment of the English SAT; a pupil sitting the exam needs to pass all elements to be at an ‘acceptable standard’.

All whilst teachers unions are concerned about the new system and have threatened boycotts and strikes.

The National Teachers Union has said;

“The Sats fail to provide useful information to parents about how schools perform and don’t tell teachers anything useful to support individual pupils in their learning. Furthermore, the high-stakes nature of primary testing puts unnecessary pressure on pupils and education professionals.”

Staffing alone costs £10.8 million not including other essentials such as the professional skills tests for teachers.

Multiple Choice Test Online

We Can Cut Marking Costs by 100%!

A major part of the costs is down to the exams being paper based and the logistical nightmare of matching up classes to markers – who may very well be miles away.

SATS are extremely inefficient; like multiple choice sections where the tickboxes are simply crosschecked against a standard marking sheet.

Overlooked all too frequently is the availability of online exams, platforms even mark the tests automatically. If deployed on a large scale the Government could eradicate most of the logistical marking process.

Of course as soon as one suggests computer based examinations, schools and examining bodies begin to fret about cheating. Testing platforms by their online nature present new ways to get round the system; but no more than traditional testing.

Technology has surpassed these fears however given school networks can be easily restricted to produce a fair testing environment.

Online Exams Are The Future

The Scottish Qualifications Authority is transitioning to digital exam content by 2020. The Department for Education is  notoriously slow at adopting technology. There is a real disparity in the Scottish and English approach.

While we wait for the education to effectively enter the digital realm, there are platforms out there for class tests and quiz’s.

Furthermore at DesignATest we think teachers need a break from marking, our online test platform offers automatic grading.

You can easily create multiple -choice, short answer and exam style tests and get results instantly.

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Banning Technology Just Doesn’t Work: Elearning is the Future

Schools throughout the land display large posters of phones with a big red banning sign. They also enshrine harsh reprimands in the school rules for students who bring laptops and phones to school. There’s a state of fear amongst staff that the evils of the internet and elearning will find their way into class. Whilst it is certainly true that internet in many ways make young people vulnerable, but equal so does the fear of it.

It might have worked to ban phones and laptops in schools in the 90’s but social reliance on the internet means rules like this are just unrealistic. We should also examine the aim of banning, is it to somehow get the children to concentrate? Is it distracting? Perhaps. The truth is though that this is inevitable, and the internet is a library you can’t tell them what books to read…

The status quo of the education system is so limiting in that there’s a prescribed curriculum of what kids ‘need to know’ to succeed in life. The internet enables students to learn about the things that interest them, giving them a unique skills set in later life. This is in line with the societal shift about the purpose of education, from preparing us for a life already chosen for us by our social class, to one where students are less limited by this owing to the technical revolution.

The reality is most of the students will use a mobile phone as part of their job in later life. Schools however fail to realise that it is not frivolous digital chatter as a large part of young people lives are online, it is in a sense also a social education for them. It is the responsibility of schools to teach kids how to use these technologies responsibly rather than banish them.

Blanket bans seldom work anyway whether it be for phones, hoodies or crewing gum you just drive the rebellion. With kids possessing multiple devises and a culture based on the internet banning it is regarded as a restriction on their identities. Instead of adapting to the learning this generation needs, the generation teaching them continues to resit the learning they want and need.

So what’s the solution? Put learning online…

Students still need the academic guidance they always have, they just demand it in a different way. Elearning platforms will have their own departments within schools within 10 years, some examining bodies are even shunning paper based exams. 

DesignATest is an academic platform for students, teachers, parents and schools. It offers assessments that give a reliable indication of academic progression, with an interface pupils will engage with. It also harnesses the power of digital based analysis assessing pupils on a range of metrics.

You can create your first test right now and email it out to pupils in seconds. The system also lets you communicate effectively with parents. See what DesignATest does for your class…

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Time to Ditch Paper Assessments & Learning

Major studies around the word are suggesting that kids learn better online that they do with paper. Online assessments and learning are more engaging whilst also delivering improved academic performance. The Scottish Qualifications Authority has even stated that it intends to phase out hand written tests within the next ten years. Therefore preparations for exams should naturally be online.

Big players in the ever-expanding tech industry despair at the fact western countries are failing to train their citizens for a digital world, subsequently emerging economies such as China and India are all too happy to supply the talented workforce. Facebook has just opened major offices in London, but with Brexit on the horizon it fears it will struggle to fill its positions in the future. Outmoded education and assessments in primary and secondary education makes it inadequate for a globalised world.

Of course the main objection to online assessments is ‘what if they cheat?’, but technology has surpassed this, many online assessments indicate the time taken on each question, and may even indicate where a pupil has visited an online source. There is also the argument that seeking out information when completing an online quiz is also a form of effective learning. More of a challenge for formal assessments like GCSE’s being completed online however. Informal online class quizes however are an effective way of measuring progression, even if pupils look for answers online.

Students process information much quicker and more effectively online than they can on paper. This generation is exposed to far more information than the generation before it. Helping students understand how to delineate between reliable sources of information should be a high priority. Setting out what is important through an online test gives the students a base to work from.

Online education so accessible, you can even access tests ready-made by experts in industry, arts and sciences. There is a troubling disconnect between the often outdated practices of schools and innovation in industry. It is time we take note like other countries have so we don’t face a gaping skills gap.

DesignATest is an online education platform changing the way schools do tests. It’s accessible learning features mean teacher create engaging online tests and measure results in real time. Progress is measured preparing students to be challenged through online mediums.

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Online Testing: Instant Learning

With students more interested in their phones than their books, it’s time to stop fighting the inevitable. Schools have frequently banned ‘electronic devices’ even  teachers can be seen having a cheeky scroll through their Facebook feeds during assembly. With unfathomable amounts of information in the palms of students, schools simply must find a way to take up some screen time and space.  The hostile environment towards new technology in schools will only harm pupils by not preparing them for a world where their lives will become ever more reliant on it.

There’s not a high school level question that cannot be answered by the internet, students can find the information far quick, more efficiently and more comprehensively. Schools however offer far more than just information, the also give an invaluable social education. As students now live a large fraction of their lives online, with a culture dominated by the internet, schools simply must find their way to the online space.

online school quiz

There are a number of methods and platforms already established for schools to reach students online. One such platform is DesignATest, this system offers a vast range of features designed to offer a tailored approach to education. You can create an online quiz that gets students engaged through the devices they treasure so much.

The winning formula for the DesignATest platform is the instant learning it provides. Students can be doing the class online quiz on their phone on the bus home from school.  Keeping them engaged with the things they have learned in class at home. Think of it like adding vegetables to their favourite food, they don’t notice they are learning…online quiz generator

There’s also no more; ‘I left it at home’, ‘the dog ate my homework’ or ‘I lost it’ as  there’s just no more excuses. Teachers can also communicate with parents on issues of concern. You can also measure academic progression over time with interactive graphs.

You’ll be able to reinforce the importance of deadlines, as well as prepare students for the expectations of professional life. The internet has penetrated industry and completely changed the workplace, yet schools continue to resist the inevitable. Companies increasingly are training and assessing their employees online, as well as tracking professional performance.

Simple drag and drop functionality means you can create online tests with ease. Universities have also begun adopting online assessments with most syllabuses having an industry specific information technology module.

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Online Tests to Communicate and Educate Together

For years the parents/teacher relationship involved a parents evening a couple of times a year and notes scribbled on paper with the child used as trusty messenger. As technology helps us advance in so many things it is now also starting to reach education with the internet being a tool with uncapped educational potential. What can it do then to bring teachers, parents and pupils closer together to achieve education fit for the 21st century? Well…

Online assessment is one of the best ways for schools, teachers, parents and pupils to track learning progression in a holistic unified way. There’s no more letters that don’t find their way to parents, they are notified of results instantly.  Teachers can pick up when the child is falling behind. Students can also monitor their own progress in real time without having to wait for teachers to mark their work, this instant gratification enhances their learning experience.

This collaborative approach to learning and assessment streamlines communication between parents and teachers. Based on academic monitoring you can strategise with the student to reach time measured goals. This way the student has clearly defined targets and knows exactly what is expected of them. Many schools have coupled this with a results and rewards system which drives achievement in subjects where students are particularly disengaged.

Teacher with student girl writing assignment

Efficient education needs to be the future of education especially as class sizes have steadily increased to breaking point. Technology enables teachers to deliver a one-on-one experience for each of the pupils in a class of 30 or more pupils. Assessing students with online tests also saves so much time that can be spent on refining the students skills. Teacher saves time with automatic marking, no more photocopying or spending precious class time reviewing the tests. Online test results are fed back immediately.

online tests

Schools are falling behind when it comes to adopting new technology for a generation to whom it matters most. Schools are full of students that have never known a world without the internet; they can ask Google a question and have it answered in a fraction of a second. Many schools are technophobic because of staff who shun technology in the fear they will not understand it. In reality most of the pupils will pick it up quicker than the teachers. Online test systems are designed to cater to all levels of technical knowledge with common sense functionality. Transitions from paper to online are seamless with an easy user interface.

DesignATest is one such system, completely based online and analyses students progress using hundreds of data points. Visualised in interactive charts and graphs results are clear and easy to understand. Communication is seamless and instant through the in-built email system and work together to reach clearly defined academic goals.

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