Estonia trials e-exams for future education

In March and April, Estonian schools start a major change in how students are assessed. Students will take computer-based trial tests in Estonian and English rather than traditional paper-based versions. This change prepares for next year’s launch of e-exams in these subjects.

The trial of computer-based tests aims to help schools get ready for 2025’s e-exams.* Should any issues arise, this will give schools plenty of time to solve them. The final math exam for basic school students will still be on paper in 2025.

Commenting on plans to introduce e-exams, Liisbet Eero, head of English at the Education and Youth Board (Harno), says the new English e-exams will assess listening, reading, writing, and speaking, just like the paper exams. “Writing and speaking will be subjectively assessed later on, that is, by individual assessors. However, listening and reading tasks will be graded automatically,” said Eero.

Grading goes digital

Eero added that teachers might need to adjust at first, but eventually, there will be less manual grading. “The monotonous and tedious grading will be done automatically in the online Examination and Information System (EIS) portal,” said Eero.

Harno says the digital Estonian exam for ninth-grade students is more objective. Unlike the paper version, it will test reading and listening comprehension. Students can use the Estonian Language Institute’s word web for their essays. The listening, reading, and language knowledge sections are computer-graded.

Digital readiness and concerns

“The e-exams are not a challenge for teachers, but for the entire system. If you have a paper exam, you have a room, paper and a pen. However, the computer adds the potential risk of electronic failure to the situation,” said Raido Kahm, head of teaching at Tallinn School Number 21. “If some students end up with a poorer result because of a technical glitch, you may wonder whether it was worth it. However, there is nothing overly dramatic about e-exams,” Kahm added.

According to Kahm, e-exams will not create an additional burden for teachers of Estonian or English, as students already have the technical skills required to take them. He added that there is nothing new about electronic exams themselves in schools as teachers also mark seventh grade Estonian and Russian proficiency tests via the EIS. Students have also been taking Cambridge University English language tests electronically for a number of years.

In order to graduate from basic school, students in the ninth grade are required to pass exams in Estonian, mathematics and one other subject of their choice in Estonia.

* Update for May 2024: The first electronic exams are scheduled to take place in the spring of 2026.

Full article available on ERR News


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