Although we often hear talk of IT taking over the world, one can be sure that this has not happened each summer, if one takes a peek in any school during the exam season.
For here, one of the many vestiges of the world of pen and paper will be on display in the school examination room. Students taking exams at 11, 16 and 18 sit in silence at their desks, writing in a manner that has not changed in 150 years.
True, some of the more radical and forward thinking examining boards have taken the radical step of allowing students to use ball point pens, but in terms of change, that’s about it. It’s pen and paper – and looks like being so for a long time.
While the world moves on and everything from newspapers to legal documents become increasingly digitalised, the good old exam paper stays in the era of pen and paper – and I have to say that for many of us, this is not a bad thing.
Indeed there’s a huge number of ramifications that arise from this. First off, the printed question papers have to be, well, printed, and then delivered to schools and other exam centres by special security firms the day before the examination takes place.
Then, lots of lined paper has to be made available for the students to write down their answers.
Next the exam papers have to be collected and couriered off to the examining bodies who then divide them up again, and courier them (once more) to their part-time markers who having marked the papers then send them back again. By courier.
In fact when we come to think about it, the couriers do rather well out of public exams.
Marks are then analysed and checked, and finally when all is said and done, the exam papers are sent off to storage facilities where they are held, pending any appeals. If an appeal is made, the papers have to be retrieved and sent back for re-marking.
It is a strangely archaic system, but there seems to be little desire to change it in most subjects. Indeed even the irony of students undertaking exams in computing having to use pen and paper seems not to have struck those who teach such courses or organise such exams.
Quite how long these exam papers are kept by exam boards, I’m not 100% sure, but I hope it is not too long. I’d dread to think that my rather awful efforts in my A Level English exam are still sitting in a storage facility somewhere. Although come to think of it, I did manage to be quite amusing in my History A Level exam, (but then again I am not sure the marker quite shared my sense of humour in describing the gunpowder plot as a cock-up on a monumental scale.)
Inevitably with this amount of paper shuffling around mistakes do happen. In June 2012 the Daily Mail reported, with what I read as a certain amount of glee, that “The security of public exams was thrown into doubt last night after it emerged three A-level papers due to be taken next week were mistakenly sent to schools abroad.
“Fifty thousand A-level maths papers will now need to be pulped amid concerns the content may have leaked out.
“Copies of the paper were mixed in with batches of past papers sent out to schools in Egypt which requested them for pupils to use in revision sessions.”
Perhaps the saddest reality of the exam system however is not the technology used in writing answers, but the fact that increasingly the grades one gets don’t have much impact on the rest of one’s life.
Yes A level grades can affect which university one gets to, and that can affect what job one gets, but in the end those people who can do things quite well tend to get better jobs than those who can’t, and whether one can do things quite well depends as much on attitude as knowledge. Most employers take the view that knowledge can be taught, but a person with a “bad attitude” towards work is very hard to reform.
So exams happen, they are undertaken in pen on paper, and they are stored for a while after the exam is all over.
If you have paper that you want to store, then Admiral Document Storage is most certainly going to be able to help you.
You can find out more from our website or by calling us on 0800 810 1125.