Year 12 students in South Australia and the Northern Territory are about to become the first in the country to sit a fully electronic end-of-year exam.
The shift towards computers and away from traditional pen-and-paper assessments has been a long time in the making, and SACE Board chief executive Martin Westwell said he expected it to become the norm around Australian schools in the near future.
“We’re very excited in South Australia that we are the first to offer electronic exams and really taking a lead, I think nationally,” Professor Westwell said.
“The partnership with schools has been really important in that – we’re all keen to make sure it works because this will be better for our students.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that other states and territories will follow this lead that South Australia has taken.”
Students welcome ‘more familiar’ way of working
At Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide’s west, year 12 students are among those sitting trial electronic exams.
Angus Hampel, 17, said he was pleased with the new model.
“I thought it was a lot better than written exams – you know we do a lot of work throughout the year without books,” he said.
“Everything is pretty much online now or just on Word, so it’s more familiar.”
Phoebe Halt, 18, also felt positive about the new exam style.
“You do have that freedom to do whatever you want so, like, highlighting the text and then copying that, which saves a lot of time compared to paper,” she said.
Brighton Secondary School assistant principal Tristan Kouwenhoven said electronic exams better reflected the way students worked on an everyday basis.
“The students are now being able to produce work in the same way they would throughout the year,” he said.
“I’ve seen the work that the SACE Board has put into this and there has certainly been a lot of thought that’s gone into it. It’s been a long time coming but that’s in order to be able to roll this out without issues.
“To be honest, if we put students in front of something a couple of years ago when the technologies and the systems weren’t ready, that would’ve been a step backwards, I think, and it’s the right time to roll it out and it seems like it’s been well executed.”
How will the electronic exams work?
Students will use either school-issued devices or their own to participate in the electronic exam.
A locked-down examination browser prevents internet access and spellcheck capabilities.
There will also be special provisions and extra support for students who need them.
The English Literary Studies exam has been chosen as the first and only test to go electronic this year due to the large volume of writing involved.
The SACE Board has plans to bring more subjects online next year, such as Modern History and Psychology, but says maths and science-based subjects that use symbols will need more refining.
The new format is part of a partnership between the SACE Board and third-party vendor SoNET Systems.
The final examination will be worth 15 per cent of a student’s overall mark in the subject.
Professor Westwell said no student would be disadvantaged by the new format.
“As per current process, students who need additional support can apply to their school for special provisions, with each case being assessed on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
“If there is a prolonged period of connection outage, students will be able to complete the examination using a like-for-like paper version.”
The English Literary Studies electronic and paper version examination will be marked and moderated online.