Digitising GCSE Exams

In this day and age, more and more aspects of our society are becoming digitised. We can now gamble, communicate with strangers, and even take out loans by using our phones or computers… but it doesn’t stop there. Digital exams for GCSE students are now a real possibility. 

How Would this Work? 

The AQA have stated: 

“The world around us is changing. The way we test students need to change with it. Students use technology every day. They’re more familiar with digital formats than a pen and paper.”  

In the exam period of summer 2026, AQA plan for the reading and listening components of GCSE Italian and Polish exams to be digital. This will act as a starting point for their new approach toward student examination. 

These digital exams will appear as traditional exam papers on a screen. This mode of examination will allow students to bookmark pages to return to questions and they will be able to enter special characters or accented letters using special toolbars. Students will be unable to access the internet, auto correct, or spell check.


Key Findings of Report Commissioned by AQA 

  • 75% of teaching professionals are in favour of the change 
  • 81% of Head Teachers feel the digitisation of exams is inevitable
  • 87% of teaching professionals agree that school infrastructure would need upgrading
  • In the most economically deprived areas, 86% of teachers believe their students don’t have enough access to technology at home to prepare for digital exams
  • In the most affluent areas, 61% of teachers believe their students don’t have enough access to technology at home to prepare for digital exams

Advantages of the Change 

  • Alignment with the ‘real world,’ which is, essentially, a digital world. Digital examination could mean better preparation for the workforce by developing digital skills 
  • Prevention of students being penalised for illegible handwriting
  • Enabling of improved test data feedback, which would help allow targeted improvements to future examinations
  • Improved sustainability by eliminating the carbon footprint of producing and distributing paper-based assessments
  • Quicker marking times by examiners
  • Increased accessibility. The AQA have stated that the move to digital exams would mean assistive technologies could be turned on for more students with disabilities or impairments

Disadvantages of the Change 

  • Unequal access to technology at home. Some students are not computer literate, lacking access to technology at home 
  • Unequal access to technology in schools. Schools which have well-resourced ICT facilities will inevitably be able to manage the shift to digital exams more easily. This gap will likely be largest between state schools and private schools
  • Loss of handwriting. Author, Colm Tobin, has argued that handwriting could “go the way of Latin and Greek” and “would within a generation, almost disappear”
  • Teachers would have to adopt new teaching approaches to better prepare students for digital exams, with AQA’s commissioned report stating, “students and teachers would need to learn new skills in the preparation for on-screen examinations”
  • Maths teachers surveyed tended to be more sceptical about the digitisation of exams
  • Increased time spent looking at a screen. Many teenagers and adults spend much of their down time watching television or going on their phone or laptop. So, if we start introducing digital exams, and thus also introduce much higher levels of digital learning in order to prepare students for them, just how much time will they spend staring at a screen all day?

Overall, there are both advantages and drawbacks to these changes in GCSE examination, but before these changes are implemented some changes certainly need to be made. Namely, improving student access to technology and adapting the style of teaching given to students to better prepare them for digital examination. 

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