Exam board uses RFID tagging to keep papers secure

Exam board Edexcel is to pilot the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track students exam papers, in a move aimed at increasing security.

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Exam board Edexcel is to pilot the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track students exam papers, in a move aimed at increasing security.

Every year, security breaches occur at some point in the examination process, although the number of incidents is small. Security breaches include cases where school staff inadvertently open packages of exam papers before the designated date for the exam.

Edexcel’s compliance team investigated around 70 security breaches arising from the despatch of 620,000 bags of exam papers last summer.

This year, a “significant number” of exam packages issued to schools this summer would carry a RFID tag, Edexcel said. The packages would be scanned on despatch and could be scanned again by Edexcel’s compliance team at any time after delivery, to identify the contents and make sure no papers are missing.

Edexcel managing director Jerry Jarvis said: “Incidents involving stolen papers are extremely rare, but the potential impact is massive. The logistics of re-issuing an alternative paper to schools and colleges around the country and re-training markers on the new paper are complicated, costly and could ultimately be detrimental to candidates.

“We’re doing a major trial of new techniques and technologies with the aim of deterring potential thefts, enabling us to better identify the source of a lost or stolen paper, and reducing the threat of fake papers being sold to candidates.”

The exam board also uses digital technology to flag up unexpected anomalies in results for individual students or groups of candidates. Nine out of 10 scripts are scanned, digitised and marked online by examiners using an ePen system.

Marks and results are captured digitally, and the online system will highlight cases where candidates have performed very differently to their expected achievement.

Exam papers that are flagged up in this way can then be re-examined manually by senior examiners who check for evidence of cheating.

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