In the space of two years, the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) has made its exam development process more secure and efficient by moving its authoring online.

Working with GradeMaker technology

The BEC runs and manages exams for primary and secondary schools across Botswana, giving thousands of learners the opportunity to gain important qualifications every year.

With the support of GradeMaker, part of the AQA group, the BEC has been able to successfully digitalise its assessment design process.

Using GradeMaker Pro, our test authoring technology, the BEC’s exam development team now manage their entire workflow in one place. This allows them to easily track the progress of their question papers, from first draft to final approval.

After early successes trialling this method, the BEC is now developing multiple papers across various subjects and qualifications. This includes some of its most complex and widely sat exams such as Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE).

“BEC is using the opportunity created by the pandemic to fast track the development of the high-level e-assessment strategy to innovate our exam processes. We selected GradeMaker Pro technology because it enables secure authoring, even remotely, as well as improvements in efficiencies through workflow management.”

Sheila Barungwi | Directorate of Product Development and Standards at the BEC

Improving security during exam development

One of the benefits of creating assessments online through GradeMaker Pro is that it helps to keep exam papers secure.

For example, within the software, you can customise and restrict the user permissions of those working on a project. This means you can prevent exam authors and reviewers from accessing papers that are not relevant to them, improving security and reducing the risk of leaks.

Since security is a top priority for the BEC, this has been an important feature for its exam development team.

Another security feature they have introduced is two-factor authentication – the most effective way to protect systems from unauthorised access. This has given the BEC an extra layer of protection, which has been very reassuring to the team.

Increasing efficiency through automation

In addition to improving security, building exam papers online has also helped the BEC save time and increase efficiency. This is because workflows in GradeMaker Pro are automated, which means senior staff at the BEC no longer have to spend time manually chasing progress updates or passing work between authors and reviewers.

GradeMaker Pro also displays the important milestone dates within each development project, helping to flag any papers that are not on track.

This feature has allowed the development team to avoid delays and speed up the progress of their papers.

Next steps

Currently the BEC is streamlining its assessment design process using GradeMaker Pro’s ‘whole paper authoring’ feature. This gives exam authors the flexibility to write a whole paper of questions in one go.

The BEC is also looking at approaches that will make its test building processes more efficient in the future. One option the development team are interested in is item banking, which involves re-using questions from an item bank, helping to build papers at speed. They are planning to use this approach for some of their future projects.

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