Computer-based examinations

Delivering results

Sir, – Junior Cert students received their results last week, several months after sitting their exams.

The State Examinations Commission has struggled in recent years to recruit examiners that are essential for our long-standing paper-based exams. It is evident the situation urgently requires some alternative and computer-based exams must be seriously considered.

In forcing the change from the traditional classroom-based learning to online learning when the necessity arose, the pandemic may have unwittingly set such a digital process in motion. Countries such as the US, Denmark, Netherlands and Norway have begun computer-based assessments for second-level students and New Zealand has almost fully transitioned from paper-based. The Pisa international assessment for 15-year-old students in which Ireland participates is entirely computer-based and 2021 saw the first computer-based exam at Leaving Cert level when the subject computer science was examined.

Introducing computer-based exams will be resisted on grounds of insufficient computers, poor internet network, cost and an inability to measure higher-order thinking skills. The provision of sufficient laptops by the commission exclusively for exams may seem exorbitant, but staggered exams using the same laptops for Junior and Leaving, coupled with other substantial savings in paper, printing, distribution and correction, could recoup the financial outlay in a relatively short time. Schools having difficult internet access may have to relocate for exam purposes. Questions involving short answers, multiple choice or drag-and-drop answers would corrected by computer, with no judgment required by an examiner and whose only task would involve correction of a limited number of higher ordered questions, answered in a word processor section.


The transition to computer-based exams initially for Junior Cert might take a number of years following trials with students becoming familiar with a process that should be easy to use and navigate. The security of external invigilators would still be required but the need for examiners would be greatly reduced and a much shorter time required for correction and delivering results. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.