The Digital Assessment Age

Digital assessment is not a hypothetical future, it’s happening right now.”

Jill Duffy, CEO of OCR (Oxford, Cambridge, and RSA) 

Many of the world’s most notable entry-exams have either gone digital or are planning to go digital in the coming years, signifying the arrival of a new age in digital assessment. See the table above for information on which global exam boards have joined this ‘revolution’ in assessing digitally and read more about the origins and evolutions of electronic exams to better grasp the trajectory of testing in today’s age.1

Origins: Students Campaigns in Scandinavia 

The reaction to COVID-19 may have expedited the transition towards online learning, but the revolution in digital assessment began over a decade ago with student campaigns for online exams in Sweden. Students at the University of Oslo in 2011 argued that as most of their coursework was performed online, their exams should be done the same.2 The campaign served as a catalyst, and the Scandinavian education system quickly became a trailblazer in the delivery of online assessment.

With each nation hosting its own EdTech cluster, Scandinavia is now renowned for possessing one of the highest quality education sectors — Finland’s education system has been deemed “the envy of the world,” routinely ranking at the top globally.3 While a high prevalence of device accessibility allowed Scandinavians to achieve forerunner status a decade earlier than others in the delivery of digital testing, increased access to educational technology throughout the pandemic has allowed the movement to since quickly spread to other parts of the world. 

Developments: Singapore Shifts Ahead  

Singapore began to make the shift towards digital testing as early as 2013, with the introduction of e-exams for selected Mother Tongue Language papers of the nation’s General Certificate of Education (GCE). Assessed in e-oral, e-written, computer-based practical, and e-coursework, 60 GCE examination papers today are now provided in electronic mode.4

A Spokesman of the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) told The Straits Times that engagement with these e-exams supports “the development of competencies that students would need in their daily lives and the future workplace.”5 The facilitation of student lessons responded to these e-exams soon after and in 2021, the Personalised Digital Learning Programme provided every secondary school student with a school-prescribed personal learning device (PLD). Providing students with the resources to prepare for e-exams, Singapore paves the way for digital learning and assessment to become a national standard. 

Soon in the United States: Digital SAT, ACT, LSAT 

When the US College Board piloted the digital SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) Suite of Assessments for high school students in 2021, every educator reported having a positive experience with facilitating the exam and 80% of students reported feeling less stressed while taking the exam.6 The College Board subsequently announced in 2022 its plan to digitalize the SAT for international students by 2023 and for US students by 2024. The ACT (American College Testing) followed soon after, announcing plans to pilot a digital assessment for US students by December 2023 and to expand operational capabilities from then on through 2024.7

Registrants for the US Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) also now have the option of either sitting the test at home or at a test centre as of August 2023.8 The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) previously required test takers to sit the digital exam at proctored test sites but reappraised exam delivery following positive reviews to the 2020 remote exam. The new LSAT, along with other computer-based exams such as the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), together represent a seminal shift towards the digital delivery of graduate-level entry-exams in the United States. 

Upcoming in the UK: Digital A-levels, GCSEs, and IGCSEs 

In the United Kingdom, exam boards predict that online assessments will soon be the standard for qualifications such as GCSEs, IGCSEs and A-levels.9  Earlier this year, OCR and Cambridge International exam boards announced they would be piloting digital mock exams for thousands of students in GCSE Computer Science, IGCSEs in English and AS-level History.10 As a result, exam fees were reduced and results were expedited for up to 30 schools in the UK and 35 schools internationally. These digital exams were not piloted to replace traditional paper exams, but instead to offer exam providers and educators insights into how digital deployment can improve the student experience by offering faster and more flexible access to testing and results. These trial exams are set to continue in 2024, taking place in about 20 additional schools around the world from Chile to Zambia.11 

Oversimplification in the Digital Transition 

The table above lists each of the exams referenced by nation, showcasing their delivery status as either currently digital or as currently piloting digital formats in the present year. What the table also showcases is that most exams listed as currently digital are provided in a Multiple-Choice Question (MCQ) mode. By restricting answers to a few options for test takers to select from, these exams have simplified digital delivery in bypassing the entry and evaluation of unique answers. While this MCQ mode nevertheless caters to certain exam types, particularly those historically in MCQ format, the question arises over whether there may be over-simplification in the transition towards digital testing by removing the option for test takers to input unique, manual answers – particularly in sophisticated STEM subject assessments requiring quantitative question types. 

Summatic: Covering the Full Range of Quantitative Question Types 

Specialising in advanced authentic assessment, Summatic overcomes the risk of oversimplification in digital testing by covering the full range of quantitative question types in upgraded formats. Sophisticated assessments in STEM subjects may struggle in the coming years to maintain the same question quality without simplifying to MCQ mode as they transition towards digital deployment. Looking towards the future, we hope that through the Summatic platform, these assessments can preserve their question complexity without having to face a complex digital transition process. Thereby, the advantages of digital testing can be realised without having to alter the exam mode or compromise exam quality. 

Furthermore, as increasingly more qualifying assessments and entry-exams transition towards online testing, it is now more important than ever before for students and educators to ensure they are equipped with the resources and are up to date with digital developments to prepare themselves for the systems, formats, and inputs included in online assessment. By utilising practice materials with Summatic, students can rehearse their performance with online systems to reduce anxiety during these exams, and teachers can familiarise themselves with the automated marking process to chart student performance. Our interactive learning platform helps to ensure that amidst the digital revolution today, nothing needs to be revolutionary when the day of testing arrives. 

  1. Times Higher Education (2020), Has the Digital Revolution Arrived for Assessments? ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. Weale, Sally (2019), Top of the Class: Labour Seeks to Emulate Finland’s School system. The Guardian: Education, ↩︎
  4. Tushara, E. (2023), Laptops replace pen and paper as S’pore shifts towards electronic examinations. The Straits Times, ↩︎
  5. Ibid. ↩︎
  6. College Board (2022), Digital SAT Brings Student-Friendly Changes to Test Experience. College Board Newsroom,
    %20Board%20announced,reported%20having%20a%20positive%20experience. ↩︎
  7. Godwin, J. (2023), The ACT is Evolving. ACT Newsroom & Blog,,
    standards%20of%20the%20ACT%20test. ↩︎
  8. Kuris, G. (2023), Remote vs. In-Person LSAT: How to Choose. US News and World Report, ↩︎
  9. Halpin, D. (2023), Students to Sit Digital Mock Exams in New Trial. The Independent, ↩︎
  10. White, S. (2023), Cambridge Trials Digital GCSEs. Business Wire,  ↩︎
  11. Halpin, D. (2023), Students to Sit Digital Mock Exams in New Trial. The Independent, ↩︎

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Summatic is an interactive platform for university STEM courses and school maths (A-level, IB, (I)GCSE), designed and developed by Cambridge academics. Our mission is to deliver exceptional learning and online assessment.

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