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Early trials of automarking software for maths papers indicate 99% accuracy

Automarking software developed by Cambridge AI company, Blutick, achieves 99% accuracy across marks in two GCSE papers when checked by a human marker.

Ofqual research suggests that, in maths, 30,000 students (4%) receive a mark which does not align with the ‘definitive grade’ given by the principal examiners. However, following a successful trial, an automated marking tool developed by Blutick was found to be 99% accurate when assessing scripts across two GCSE exam papers. This is an important step in helping to significantly reduce any margin of error, and ensure students receive the grades they deserve. 

Blutick is a Cambridge AI software company focused on teaching, learning and assessment in maths. The organisation is currently working with exam boards to improve marking consistency by augmenting and supporting the work done by examiners, and ultimately, champion a fair system for all students.

Once the automated marking was conducted across the exam papers, an examiner reviewed the students’ responses and the Blutick mark, correcting any marks where necessary and returning an accuracy rate of 98.6% to 98.75% by the AI software.

Currently, a sample of only 1.2% of questions are double marked (Ofqual 2018, p. 9). However, a 2013 review of literature on marking reliability research by Ofqual indicates the value of multiple marking for exam scripts. Despite this, it raises the recruitment of examiners, cost implications, time constraints and logistical issues as barriers to its introduction across the board. With other experts also disputing the accuracy of the current examination and grading system, this new automated marking software would help remove these barriers and challenges, increasing the feasibility of multiple marking.

Rob Percival, Blutick’s CEO and a former maths teacher, said:

“With so few questions double marked, there is a lot of scope for error. A system like this can review 100% of marked papers and flag potentially erroneous responses for further checking.

“It in no way replaces the work done by examiners, but instead acts as a safety net in ensuring more students get the grade they deserve with almost no extra cost or increased workload for examiners.”

Beyond eradicating errors, more automation in marking processes is a growing focus for exam boards and for Ofqual. With barriers to recruiting suitable examiners exacerbated by Covid, automarking software provides a solution to these problems that benefits students, teacher–examiners and exam boards.

Simon Armitage, Deputy Head at The Perse School, Cambridge, said:

“Whilst examination grades should never be the sole measure of ‘output’ from a school or the nature of any student’s achievements, it is self-evident that any grades must be fair.

“Anything that helps exam boards to deliver accurate results more reliably is good news for everyone – students, schools, universities and employers. It is one of the reasons why The Perse School has been pleased to be involved in the Blutick Maths project.

“If an Artificial Intelligence system is part of this improvement, then it also helps reduce inevitable human error and could help exam boards to circumnavigate the difficulties of finding well-qualified markers.”

The new normal – how exams are changing post pandemic

In-person exams have not taken place since 2019 for many students, with just over 600,000 Key Stage 4 students missing out on taking exams in 2021 alone[2]. Sussex-based, leading print-security firm, Zunoma, is preparing for the summer exam season by adapting to the new examination requirements that are now in place post pandemic.

 

The Department of Education said that all GCSE and A Level students will take in person exams this year[3], yet there are still a few modifications to ensure fairness across the board.

 

As the sector begins to return to normal after almost two years of disruption, exams still look slightly different for students as educational institutions attempt to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education and the certification process.

 

For the 2022 exam season, the government has introduced a choice of topics and content for some GCSE exams, allowing teachers to tailor classes accordingly and give students more specific direction on what to study. Additionally, some exam boards offer advanced information on an exams content which is designed to provide specific guidance for revision. There will also be new and additional study aids that will be allowed in some exams that have not been allowed in previously.

 

Although there are plans for the education sector to eventually return to normal, online exams are still growing in popularity, especially seen with university students who prefer open-book or online examinations[4] compared to in-person ones. With online options making universities more accessible for many students, there has been many calls to keep a hybrid approach.

 

Additionally, reports from universities stress that the forced move away from traditional exams has had mental health benefits for many students, including less assessment anxiety[5].

 

As the education sector continues to evolve and adapt to new assessment methods, security and fairness also needs to be a key consideration in the examination process. It is vital that there is a substantial authorisation and authentication process to ensure the right student takes the right exam. Extensive cyber security measures need to be put in place to identify any potential security lapses.

Zunoma supports the education sector by delivering a complete design, print, personalisation and mailing service across a range of education related documentation.

 

 

Recognising the significant increase in online courses and the need to compliment traditional exams, paper certificates and more with secure digital counterparts, Zunoma’s secure portal solutions allow transfer of data, personalisation, fulfilment and delivery without any threat.

 

Roy Mullins, Business Development Manager at Zunoma, said: “The security of our customers data and documents is of utmost priority to Zunoma. A security breach in a test can have potentially disastrous consequences which can threaten reputation and the credibility of examinations.

 

“Zunoma’s experience of working with awarding bodies provides confidence that the security and integrity of test papers are maintained throughout the process.”

 

To find out more about the services Zunoma can provide to the education sector, please visit: www.zunoma.com/security-print-software/certificates-education.

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/infographic-gcse-results-2021/infographics-for-gcses-2021-accesible

[3] https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/11/11/exams-in-2022-everything-you-need-to-know/

[4] https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1287129

[5] https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-research/publications/lessons-pandemic-making-most

Why paper certificates are still so valuable in the education sector

Despite Covid-19 causing disruptive challenges to the education sector and wider, there were 10.3 million examination certificates given out in the UK during the 2019-2020 school year[1]. Looking ahead to 2022, world-leading print security firm, Zunoma is ready to assist awarding bodies by offering a complete service from design to delivery in time for the exam season.

 

Although there are environmental benefits to having digital certificates, digital crime is on the rise. In 2020, as many moved online during the pandemic, there were over 300,000 reports of fraud and cybercrime in the UK[2]. With those under the age of 25 the largest target of cybercrimes[3], students need assurance that their data, transcripts and qualifications are stored correctly. Security-embedded printed certificates as well as digital versions, should be available, to ensure that students are equipped for all possibilities.

 

Furthermore, as the world continues to undergo a digital transformation, there are still many people who prefer physical copies of significant and meaningful documents. A tangible certificate and transcript are a visual reminder of well-achieved accomplishments, as well as being an important academic record to show future employers.

 

Dinah Ouzman, Director of Strategy & Product Development at Zunoma, said: “At Zunoma, we recognise how important it is for students to receive physical copies of their education certificates. However, digital copies are easier when sharing records and may be seen as the favoured option. 

 

“With this in mind, not only do we offer a digital certification service for the education sector, but a comprehensive verification service with encrypted features for prospective employers. We developed eValidate, an effective and simple app that works both on and offline to decrypt data on the certificate and confirm authenticity.”

 

Many universities across the country have already begun the move to include a hybrid print and digital certification solution as a faster route of sharing and avoiding additional charges. With some examining bodies charging up to £50[4] for a replacement certificate, digital alternatives are a much more appealing and cost-effective alternative to the student.

 

Roy Mullins, Business Development Manager at Zunoma, said: “We have worked with a number of education providers including University of Arts London, Ministry of Education Namibia, London Institute of Banking and Finance and more, to ensure a smooth and secure solution. Both our digital and print products are mirrored with the same amount of security to ensure fraudulent copies cannot be produced.”

 

Zunoma advise many educational institutions on the most appropriate security measures to incorporate into each product. Additionally, Zunoma also offers Ecertsecure, a secure online web portal that enables organisations to create, print or send certificates securely. These products help to protect a brands reputation from any damage created by fraud.

 

Zunoma provide a complete design, print and personalisation service of multiple education documents and is trusted by examination and awarding bodies in the UK and internationally.

 

To find out more about the services Zunoma can provide to the education sector, please visit: www.zunoma.com/security-print-software/certificates-education

 

[1]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/960952/Annual_Qualifications_Market_Report_academic_year_2019_to_2020.pdf

[2] https://www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/uk-cyber-security-statistics/

[3] https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2019/29/1-2-million-cybercrime-victims

[4] https://www.ocr.org.uk/students/replacement-certificates/