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Digital Exam and Assessment Timeline

1930s - 1980s





In 1938, the IBM 805 auto-scores OMR bubble sheets 10x faster than humans, often deployed for military aptitude tests. The late 1970s sees Control Data Corp (CDC) develop on-screen testing for finance workers via financial regulator NASD and the PLATO system.

Digital exam logistics for IT education programmes, led by Novell, move from mainframes to LAN-based client server architecture. The internet permits exam data to be sent as on-screen tests to thousands of global test centres. Item authoring software emerges for enabling digital delivery and raising exam quality. By the end of the 90s, plagiarism detection software for scanned and typed essays, emanates from US universities and is made commercially available. December 1999 sees an online HTML-based digital exam authoring and delivery engine released for exam owners. Which is when I started in the sector!

Large scale digital exam launches include driving theory tests, citizenship exams, and English tests. England's exam regulator claims school exams will be digitised by 2009. First UK public sighting of remote proctoring in May 2004. Digital delivery of GCSE Geography is trialled in the same year. OECD pilots PISA digital exams in reading and science in 2009. E-Portfolios enter mainstream assessment and qualifications.  

Vocational sector assessment tech including MOOCs and digital badges/ credentialling is rolled out. 'Born digital' exams that are 100% authored, delivered, and certified digitally are launched. In 2013, England's school exam boards claim 'paper exams will die out in a decade'. By 2019, most UK school exams are created and marked on-screen, and England's exam regulator explores using AI to improve marking.

A global pandemic sees rapid adoption of remote proctoring with digital exams - human invigilated, record-and-review, and automated. AI-powered systems for test creation gain traction. Few assessments outside of school exams are untouched by digitising. By 2021, 80% of participating PISA test countries use digital exam delivery. In late 2023, major UK school exam boards start incremental roll-out of digital exams.

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