Parliamentary Question

National Examination Scripts


11 February 2019



Mr Zainal Sapari, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC

To ask the Minister for Education whether the Ministry will consider having all GCE examination papers to be prepared and marked locally to minimise the risk associated with having the papers shipped and marked overseas.



Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, Ang Mo Kio GRC


To ask the Minister for Education what are the Ministry's plans in ensuring the safety and integrity of our GCE examination scripts that are sent to the United Kingdom or other overseas marking centres.



Prof Lim Sun Sun, Nominated Member of Parliament



To ask the Minister for Education whether the Ministry has considered having the GCE "O" and "A" Level exams be e-exams where students key in answers via the computer, or to have written answer scripts be scanned and graded electronically so as to avoid situations of loss or tampering.



Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament



To ask the Minister for Education (a) what is the timeline for the Ministry's plans to introduce electronic marking of GCE "O" and "A" Level examination scripts and whether the plans will be brought forward; (b) what action is the Ministry taking to prevent a recurrence of stolen or lost scripts including any mitigation action to be taken now pending any change of marking methods in future.



Miss Cheng Li Hui, Tampines GRC



To ask the Minister for Education with regard to GCE "N", "O" and "A" Levels examinations (a) whether examination scripts of all subjects will be scanned, digitalised and marked onscreen by the end of 2019 or will some subjects be exempted; (b) whether any overseas examination boards have conducted e-exams for examinations of similar level; (c) whether the Ministry has conducted trials or is conducting trials for holding e-exams for some subjects; and (d) whether schools and students are currently equipped to conduct and complete examinations digitally.



1. Mr Speaker, I will address the five questions raised by Members on the issue of examination scripts lost in the United Kingdom (UK) while being marked. Mr Murali Pillai had also filed a similar question on this issue at the next sitting, and I will address his question too.

Value in Engaging Cambridge Assessment

2. MOE and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) decide on the standards and the award of grades for our national examinations. At the same time, we engage Cambridge Assessment to develop and mark our GCE N/O/A-Level examinations because of their strong global expertise and experience in this areas.

3. This arrangement has worked well for many years. Each year, there are about 1.1 million answer scripts generated in the GCE-level examinations. 300,000 answer scripts, are marked locally, while 800,000 answer scripts are marked by Cambridge Assessment. Cambridge Assessment in turn taps on about 2,200 professors and experienced educators from universities and higher institutions to mark the scripts.

4. Therefore, to mark all the scripts locally requires a very substantial amount of highly qualified resources. As these are required during the school vacation period, we need to be mindful about the workload and wellbeing of our teachers if all subjects are to be marked locally, and the tight timeline between the examinations and the release of results.

5. Over the years, Cambridge Assessment has also taken their role very professionally and seriously. For example, following the recent O-Level Additional Mathematics incident, Cambridge Assessment has committed to reinforce the instructions given to their examiners on the handling and movement of scripts. The Examiner concerned will also not be engaged to mark scripts in future. This collaboration between MOE and Cambridge Assessment continues to be useful and necessary.

On-screen Marking

6. The next question is whether we can improve the situation by marking the scripts electronically, to ensure the safety and integrity of the scripts and prevent future losses.

7. In fact, since 2015 and before the recent incidents, SEAB and Cambridge Assessment have been working closely on a planned move to transit the distribution and marking of hardcopy GCE-Level answer scripts to on-screen marking in the UK since 2015.

8. There are many professional advantages: tabulation of scores become much faster and efficient; there is no need to handle voluminous physical scripts; we can readily generate data to study how students perform in various papers, sections, or questions, which will help us improve instruction and teaching.

9. Given the large number of answer scripts, the implementation of on-screen marking in the UK was carried out in phases. In 2017, we implemented for GCE N-level examinations. By 2018, this was extended to some GCE O-level examinations, and close to 65% of all GCE-Level written scripts were marked on-screen. By the end of this year, we are on track to mark on-screen almost all of GCE-Level written scripts. From 2020, locally developed examination papers, namely GCE N(T)-Level Basic Mother Tongue Language and O-level Literature in Mother Tongue Language, will be marked on-screen and then more local papers will be included over the subsequent few years.

10. There are some examination papers that are not suitable for on-screen marking. For example, Science Practical examination scripts cannot be marked on-screen as these answer scripts may be contaminated with chemicals which makes them unsuitable for scanning. Other examinations like drama or art are obviously also not suitable for on-screen marking.


11. Members have also asked if we could go beyond on-screen marking to conduct e-Examinations.

12. There are a few examination boards that have implemented e-Examinations, for example, the SAT test by US College Board for college admission. The approach in Singapore is to use e-Examinations when there is clear benefit over paper-based tests.

13. For example, SEAB has already implemented e-oral exams across all levels for Mother Tongue Language subjects. We use video clips to set the context, which enables a richer and more meaningful interaction compared to just showing a picture, which was what we went through. This will be extended to the GCE N-level English in 2019 and O-level English in 2020.

14. We have introduced computer-based writing examination as a pilot, in the GCE O- and A-Level Mother Tongue Language Syllabus B’s Paper 1 and GCE A-Level H2 Mother Tongue Language and Literature. So far the feedback has been positive as the candidates found the e-Examination more engaging and authentic.

15. It is possible that in time to come, more written examinations can be administered on screen as well. Students can more readily copy and paste text in their essays, move paragraphs around, and they can be asked to respond to an email, or write a blog or social media post. All these better reflect real life situations that students go through later in life.

16. But we are still some time away from that future. We need to take into account the readiness of schools and students. More importantly and notwithstanding the high computer penetration rate amongst our population, we should not inadvertently disadvantage students who may not be exposed to computers as much as others. Ideally, e-Examinations need to be aligned to schools’ use of technology in teaching and learning.


17. Even as MOE, SEAB, and Cambridge Assessment work towards on-screen marking and e-Examinations, let me emphasise that every system has risks. Going electronic will eliminate the risk of lost scripts, but new risks associated with electronic data will surface. So whatever system we adopt in future, we need to study the pros and cons carefully, proceed methodologically, we need to identify and ensure that risks are managed and mistakes minimized to the greatest extent possible.