How the web could be coming to an exam room near you

Internet-enabled calculators could form part of more ‘innovative’ assessments

Ofqual is encouraging exam boards to develop new forms of assessment that could include pupils using internet-enabled calculators in exams.

A report published by the exams watchdog reveals that it has rejected calls to ban the use of internet functions on calculators because these could in future be used as part of “more innovative assessments”.

Ofqual, which will start regulating the ways in which calculators are used from next year, is not prescribing how boards could adapt their assessments to bring in internet use.

But advanced calculators can access the internet, communicate with other calculators and computers, plot graphs and solve simultaneous equations.

Will Hornby, a maths specialist at the OCR exam board, told TES that any exams in which internet functions were allowed would have to be carefully designed to ensure pupils were not being tested on the functions that a calculator can perform but on their own ability to solve problems using the device.

He said other countries already had these kinds of exams. “Denmark is a classic case,” he said. “The equivalent of A-level maths is taken on a computer with full internet access.

“You can come in [to the exam] with stuff on a USB stick if you like. The result of that is a very different type of question. It’s more investigative. It’s about finding data and using the computer to resolve problems.”

Respondents to a consultation on Ofqual’s new role said they were concerned that calculator functions such as the internet and communication with other devices could “undermine the integrity of exams” and called for a ban on these functions.

But an Ofqual report published in response says that although “certain calculator functions pose particular risks”, it does not have plans to introduce a blanket ban on such functions because they could be used positively.

An Ofqual spokesman confirmed that this could include, but was not limited to, the use of internet functions on calculators.

The regulator said in a statement: “We have deliberately chosen not to specify how calculators can and cannot be used in exams.

“What matters is that, whatever approach an exam board takes, its exams still work properly and aren’t undermined by the way it allows students to use calculators.”


This is an edited article from the 27 May edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoogle GmailShare