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Japan pref. to tap auto scoring in school entrance exams after 988 grading errors in 2 yrs

A teacher uses software for automatic scoring on a trial basis at Naka High School in the city of Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Jan. 24, 2023. (Mainichi/Harumi Kimoto)

MITO -- The Ibaraki Prefectural Board of Education unveiled on Jan. 24 a digitized test scoring system to be introduced in the entrance exams for prefectural high schools in March 2023.

    The move comes after a spate of scoring errors in admission exams in the prefecture between the 2020 and 2021 academic years. Under the new system, answers to multiple-choice questions will be automatically graded to enhance efficiency, allowing more time to be spent on checking scoring results including in written exams.

    Over the past two years, 988 scoring errors were found to have occurred in prefectural school entrance exams. Four students, who would otherwise have passed the tests, failed due to the mishap.

    In the academic 2022 entrance exams, the prefectural board of education increased the number of multiple-choice questions and conducted multiple checks to curb scoring errors. Meanwhile, there arose concerns that the increased proportion of multiple-choice questions made it difficult to test applicants' ability to express themselves. As a consequence, it was decided that written questions would be boosted from the academic 2023 exams onward.

    In conjunction with the shift, the prefectural education board purchased dedicated software for some 7.87 million yen (about $60,320). With the software, answers to multiple-choice questions are converted into digital data using optical character recognition, allowing them to be automatically graded.

    Under the new scheme, multiple teachers will use the auto grading system to cross-check their results, and ultimately compare them against the original answers. The time saved thanks to the automation will be allocated to grading written portions of the entrance exams, as well as overall checks.

    The Ibaraki education board tested the software at all of its schools starting in the fall of 2022. At Naka High School in the prefectural city of Naka, teachers tried the software using mock exams on Jan. 24. Principal Kazuhiro Shoji commented, "We'd like to create a system where applicants can take their tests without concern."

    The upcoming entrance exams for Ibaraki prefectural high schools are scheduled for March 3 at 92 schools and one branch school. When the software was earlier introduced in the entrance tests for prefectural junior high schools on Jan. 7, no trouble was reported.

    (Japanese original by Harumi Kimoto, Mito Bureau)

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