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2023 in Review

2023 was a seismic year in assessment. Many learners returned to an exam hall for the first time in a number of years. Three UK exam owners announced plans for digitising school exams. Here are the assessment world's stories of 2023.


January The year kicked off with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announcing its intention to acquire NWEA. The transaction completed in May. Northern Ireland’s CCEA exam body appointed Gerry Campbell as its new CEO, and RM appointed Mark Cook to lead the company.


February US test services company Prometric announced Stuart Udell as their new CEO, who stated the company would be entering the K-12 and higher education test sectors. The month also saw the starting pistol fired on exam owners stating their position on AI within assessment. Matt Glanville of the International Baccalaureate was first to share his short and long term views. In M&A activity, UK formative school assessment provider GL Assessment joined Renaissance.


March In Scotland, the Hayward Report’s publication saw calls for a Scottish Diploma of Achievement, and an end to the ‘two-term dash’ of high-stakes exams. And UK software house Surpass Assessment (formerly BTL) waved goodbye to retiring CEO Keith Myers.


April Following its acquisitions of AlphaPlus Consultancy, BluTick and TQUK, AQA announced in April that exam authoring tool Grademaker would be joining its roster, from print company Stephen Austin. The European Personnel Selection Office postponed one of their recruitment rounds due to ‘technical dysfunctions and data protection concerns’ with their remote proctoring system. And the Association of Business Executives, a 50-year old UK exam owner, was acquired by the Institute of Leadership and Management.


May It was reported in May that Kim Kardashian scored 100% in her mid-term law exam. I posted on LinkedIn, “Why are exam owners so shy to leverage their learners’ public reach, when they have millions more followers?” The eAssessment Association acquired the Beyond Multiple Choice event, which ran again successfully in November.


June UK apprenticeship end-point assessment operator, Skills for Logistics, was acquired by UK awarding body VTCT at the start of June. On June 6-7, the eAssessment Association held their annual conference, where I delivered a presentation on ‘The Future Financing of Assessment’. A record 13M students sat China’s Gaokao college entrance exam during the month – often believed to be the world’s largest concurrent high stakes exam delivery programme. UK awarding body and degree-awarding institution, London Institute of Banking and Finance, was acquired by Germany’s IU Group. And for the first time, details of North Korea’s civil servant qualification exam emerged.


July Ofqual published a study in July on remote proctoring within England’s vocational and technical qualifications. They also published the annual exam price rises across England, noting 6.5% in GCSEs and A Levels, and a 9% rise compared to 2021. Norway-headquartered Inspera acquired Crossplag, a Kosovo-based plagiarism and AI content detection company. And in a seismic move, WJEC, school exam body for Wales, included details of how it will digitise five school-level subject exams by 2030, via its ‘Qualified for the Future’ strategy.


August UK schools minister Nick Gibb had an interesting choice of words, relating to digital exam delivery this month: “You just have to make sure that it is protected from corruption.” TES reported from ‘Inside a Paper Exam Factory’ - digging in waste bags, chopping up paper, cutting through plastic, checking for the right ink type. Not a Victorian workhouse, but how England's school paper exams are processed. A disturbing story from Wales in August told of a hospital doctor being suspended for taking exam screenshots of 25 questions for 'personal use'.


September A lively month for exam stories. The PIE reported on the use of face-swap apps being deployed for remotely proctored exams, and on a severe backlog of ex-UK dentistry learners waiting to take the national registration exam. The Daily Mail reported on the ‘chaos’ of FIFA agent exams (albeit all sorted out by a UK supplier!). The West African Examinations Council (WAEC), which oversees exams for millions of students in West Africa, announced it would introduce computer-based testing, following the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) introducing digital exams in Nigeria in 2013. Reuters had a story on the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suing Walmart over a knowledge assessment test. And the UK Telegraph reported on Bedales school ‘ditching’ GCSE school exams.


October October kicked off with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing an ‘Advanced British Standard’, replacing A Levels, albeit only for school leavers in England. AQA announced their plans for digitising UK GCSE school exams from 2026. An intriguing report from Germany claimed that violent physical and verbal assaults by exam takers on invigilators is becoming ‘a serious problem’. Google announced an English tutoring tool, and I was invited onto a podcast with Victvs, talking about the business of exams.


November - December On November 14th, I posted on LinkedIn saluting the 21st anniversary of the launch of the UK’s hazard perception element of the driving theory test. The month ended with UK gov-tech business Civica being sold to Blackstone. I also attended the Federation of Awarding Bodies conference, where Ofqual presented their Annual Statement of Compliance. This claimed a number of UK exam owners are loss-making, their financial resilience was under pressure, and just under 50% of the regulated market expects worsening finances. I felt compelled to post my thoughts as 'Crisis, What Crisis' on LinkedIn. The year climaxed with England school exam owner, OCR, announcing they would offer a digitally assessed GCSE Computer Science from 2025.


If you liked this review, check out my Google Site, follow me on X, and get in touch! Enjoy your holidays, see you in 2024!

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