AQA to launch free digital maths tests for schools

But England's largest exam board has delayed plans to introduce on-screen exams

But England's largest exam board has delayed plans to introduce on-screen exams

England’s largest exam board AQA will launch a free digital maths test to help teachers work out why students are struggling, but has delayed plans to introduce on-screen exams.

Developed by AQA over the past 18 months, the test is aimed at students in the first few years of secondary school or those preparing to study towards a maths GCSE resit.

The on-screen test is powered by “adaptive technology” that reacts to the answers a student gives. It will be available to all schools, regardless of whether they use AQA qualifications.

The exam board said it would allow teachers to “pinpoint gaps in a student’s conceptual knowledge – saving the teacher time and empowering students who then know what they need to do to improve”.

AQA is also working on “how this test data can be used at a large scale so that, for example, multi-academy trusts can see mathematical concepts students are struggling with across a wide number of schools”.

But a move towards on-screen GCSE exams has been pushed back by the board.

Last year, AQA said it aimed to launch its first digital mock exams for GCSE Italian and Polish reading and listening components in 2025.

They would then move to live exams the following year, subject to Ofqual approval.

More would follow until bigger subjects were partly digitally assessed in 2030 – meaning hundreds of thousands of on-screen exams.

Revised timetable for digital exams

But AQA said it was “continuing to talk to the regulator [Ofqual], school leaders, teachers and exams officers, and now plans to introduce digital Italian and Polish GCSE later”.

A spokesperson told Schools Week the board recognised they “must get this right and maintain public confidence in our exam system, as well as give schools and colleges proper notice before making changes”.

“We will update when we can on a revised date for implementing these exams.”

Colin Hughes, AQA chief executive. Today they are launching a new maths programme
Colin Hughes

It is understood the 2030 target has not changed.

The new digital maths test will involve each student being asked 30 to 40 questions from a bank of around 150.

The test will analyse responses and offer the next question suited to their learning needs – dubbed a “Goldilocks approach”.

This will avoid questions “that are either too hard or too easy, and quickly establishes a young person’s level of conceptual knowledge”.

AQA said they aren’t planning to sell the data, but they could analyse it on an anonymous level to provide policymakers with “valuable insights” to inform curriculum design and teacher training. 

AQA CEO Colin Hughes said: “We know that many students struggle in GCSE maths because they don’t have a firm understanding of its fundamental concepts.

“Students have told us that they find the new test engaging, since it offers rapid feedback that tells them what they need to work on.”

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