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New exam processing system improves efficiency and generates savings for Cambridge English

Cambridge Assessment is the world’s leading provider of language assessment for students and teachers of English. Part of the world-renowned University of Cambridge, it has offered English language exams since 1913.

Challenge

With over eight million exams taken around the world each year and more than 2,500 authorised exam centres in 130 countries – Cambridge Assessment was looking to make efficiencies in distributing and capturing responses from exam scripts; reducing the need for labour-intensive shipping and handling of large amounts of paper.

Solution

Approached to manage a series of pilots, ePC created a web portal to distribute personalised exam papers as downloadable PDF’s to centres. At the end of each exam, completed scripts are scanned and uploaded to ePC’s web scanning solution eScan.

To verify the data, Cambridge Assessment use TeleForm to confirm each script is accurate. Only unrecognised characters are shown to the operator with the majority of scripts requiring zero human interaction.

The pilots culminated in a final test with five centres across Europe. This produced encouraging results, with a single operator able to capture over 3,000 scripts an hour, as well as valuable feedback from interaction with real-world centres.

Upon completion of the pilots, the project was expanded and developed in modular fashion.

Centre Print

Working closely with Cambridge Assessment, ePC developed a dedicated portal as a front-end to the printing and scanning process for centres. Personalised exam papers are accessible through the portal and grouped by examination and/or candidate ready for downloading and printing by the centres.

Centre Scan

Comprising the scanning, reconciliation, error rectification and transmission of scanned scripts, eScan is a .NET application installed from, and launched via, a link on the portal.

Each script is identifiable by a candidate number and the session the candidate attended, encoded into two-dimensional barcodes. Once candidates have completed the examination, scripts are scanned immediately at the centre with no physical scripts sent to examiners. Scanned paper uploads run synchronously with scanning to minimise the time taken to return exam papers.

At this stage, TeleForm is used to check the images for quality and extract the raw data for marking.

Bulk Item Marking (BIM)

Based on Process Director by BP Logix, BIM facilitates on-screen marking for short and long text responses to complement the work of human examiners. When scanned scripts are captured, the system identifies the exam paper and extracts the relevant response areas from the page. Invalid or unreadable responses are shown to an examiner for manual marking. Marking quality assurance rules are automatically enforced across a session, with double-marking, error rates, escalations and hierarchical marker monitoring built into the workflow.

Teams are managed by system administrators and team leaders, with dashboard views showing real-time session and component assignments and marking statistics. When a team leader is happy with the marking, it is released for onward processing.

Results

The initial success gave Cambridge Assessment the confidence to roll out flagship qualifications on the system worldwide.

To find out more about our online assessment software, or to book a demonstration, please contact us.

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