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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 17:08 GMT
On-screen GCSEs 'close to reality'
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Students enjoy online exams say examiners
Pupils could be sitting at least part of their GCSEs online within the next few years, says England's exams watchdog.

Pilot schemes involving some GCSEs and national tests for 14 year olds are being used as a test bed.

Exams watchdog the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) says pupils could sit some GCSE papers online in the next two to five years.

The exam board Edexcel began pilots in 2000 and has been involved in trials in Northern Ireland with the exams watchdog there, the CCEA.

It is now carrying out a pilot scheme for online GCSEs in chemistry, biology, physics and geography with 200 schools and colleges across the West Midlands and the west of England.

CCEA chief executive Gavin Boyd said: "This project has proven that we can deliver important examinations on-screen.

"We have also confirmed that the use of technology itself is no barrier to the students involved."

He said that children and adult learners had enjoyed taking their exams on-screen.

'Huge response'

The QCA is piloting the technology through a national test for 14 year olds in information and communications technology.

As many as 100 schools are involved this year and the QCA is to offer the online test to all secondary schools in England for next year in the next stage of the trial.

This is not pipe-dream stuff - it's real and around the corner
Martin Ripley, QCA
Martin Ripley from the QCA is expecting an enthusiastic response from schools.

"We would be disappointed if we did not get a huge response.

"With the present pilot, we had a floodgate of schools looking to take part.

"This is not pipe-dream stuff. It's real and around the corner."

The ICT tests will be marked instantly and automatically, although official examiners will double-check them.

The exam board Edexcel's online pilot scheme in the West Midlands and west of England involves GCSEs in chemistry, biology, physics and geography.

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