Exam board pilots RFID tech

Edexcel is looking for an A* in security

Edexcel is looking for an A* in security

A UK exam board is piloting RFID and other technology this summer to boost the security of its examination process.

Edexcel is carrying out a major trial of new tech which it hopes will deter theft, help identify lost or stolen papers and reduce the possibility of papers getting into the hands of candidates.

The packs containing the exam papers will carry passive RFID tags which will be scanned on despatch and again after they have been delivered.

Edexcel's compliance team will be able to identify the correct contents of packs to make sure all exam papers and bags for each school are present and correct.

The use of microtext - text invisible to the naked eye - is also being piloted to identify whether papers are genuine.

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There are a small number of suspected security breaches every year during the assessment process. These breaches - which are investigated by Edexcel's compliance team - include things such as exam packages being opened before the exam date.

There were 70 reports of breaches in summer 2006 out of a total of 620,000 bags of exam papers despatched.

Edexcel MD Jerry Jarvis said although incidents involving stolen papers are rare, the potential impact is massive.

He said the logistics of reissuing papers and retraining markers is costly and potentially damaging for the exam prospects of students.

Edexcel is looking into trialling active RFID tags next year - allowing lost papers to be located more easily - and time-lock boxes which will only be accessible at the time of the exam.

Edexcel's exam papers have been scanned and digitised since November 2003, allowing examiners to mark papers online through the ePen system. The board expects to digitise its 10 millionth exam paper this summer.

Results are also captured digitally, meaning anomalies can be quickly spotted and scripts quickly accessed for checking for malpractice.