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By | Kelly Fiveash 11th May 2007 13:06

Exam papers tagged to deter cheats

Chips go to the top of the class

An exam board has said it will be using radio frequency identification (RFID) from this summer to increase the security of its GCSE and A-level papers.

UK-based Edexcel said it plans to use the electronic tagging system to help prevent exam papers being stolen.

Jerry Jarvis, managing director at the firm, said in a statement: "Incidents involving stolen papers are extremely rare, but the potential impact is massive. The logistics of re-issuing an alternative paper to schools and colleges around the country and re-training markers on the new paper are complicated, costly, and could ultimately be detrimental to candidates."

Of 620,000 exam packages sent out to schools and colleges by Edexcel last summer, there were around 70 reports of security breaches.

Speaking on the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Jarvis said tagging packaged exam papers should help the firm quickly track the source of any leak.

Edexcel said it also uses an ePen system to scan, digitise, and mark up to 90 per cent of all packaged exam papers online.

It reckons the system should enable it to detect suspicious submissions from students by comparing their previous results for anomalies where a candidate "performs significantly out of line with expectations".

RFID technology is already widely used in shops to tag electronic goods and clothing.

It can also be found round the ankles of criminals on early release from congested prisons who can be monitored to ensure their curfew isn't broken.

Just last month a government minister suggested the technology might be a good way to free up elderly sufferers of dementia. The logic being that a tag would allow them to safely wander off, with the view that they could be easily tracked down.

But El Reg can only ponder what might happen if a criminal on curfew, an elderly dementia sufferer, and a student with a stolen exam paper under their arm all meet up in a CD shop. ®

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