How ZIMSEC utilised in-person training to refresh their knowledge and use GradeMaker to its full potential

Zimsec Ministry of Education

Many of our clients have been using GradeMaker as a long-term solution to enhance the quality, efficiency and security of their exam authoring. However, with long-term use comes changes to personnel and processes. This is where our comprehensive refresher training comes in, to ensure all GradeMaker users have the same high level of knowledge and understanding, and that awarding organisations continue to get the most out of using our feature-rich system.

Here you can read about the training we delivered to The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) in August 2023.

ZIMSEC is at the heart of Zimbabwe’s education sector, and is widely regarded as a centre of excellence within Africa.

ZIMSEC and GradeMaker – a continuing partnership

Founded in 1996, ZIMSEC is an autonomous parastatal under the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture of the Republic of Zimbabwe, responsible for the administration of public examinations in Zimbabwean schools.

ZIMSEC use GradeMaker to develop better quality exams for all learners, while reducing security risks. Now in their seventh year of using GradeMaker, ZIMSEC are using our system to write papers for 37 0-Level subjects – creating an item bank with over 20,000 items. They planned to begin authoring 50+ more subjects and qualifications online in 2024.

Why in-person training was needed

With their decision to bring the authoring of A-Level and Grade 7 exams into GradeMaker from 2024, the ZIMSEC team felt that their current personnel would strongly benefit from focused, in-person refresher training. Some newer staff members had not received any GradeMaker-led training, instead learning ‘on the job’ with input from their colleagues. So face-to-face training for the whole team would ensure that everyone had the same level of skills and knowledge to use the system efficiently and successfully. 

Previously, training had been delivered remotely. While this was still broadly effective, it didn’t always allow for the extra one-to-one support and discussion that can really instil confidence and in-depth understanding of GradeMaker.


Stage 1: Planning and designing training

ZIMSEC requested refresher training that would meet the following objectives:

  • In-person training, to multiple user groups, to cover all areas of GradeMaker.
  • A ‘super-user’ approach for all Subject Managers, to facilitate the team in becoming totally self-sufficient in user management and workflow management, in parallel with content creation, review and export.
  • All participants included in the training to gain knowledge and confidence, boosting their ability to understand GradeMaker.

Customising the structure of the in-person training

To broaden and deepen understanding, ZIMSEC felt that all training participants would benefit from learning about all areas of GradeMaker, not just the specific functions relating to their role. This approach would also allow the core team to instruct and guide new users while continuing to build a foundation of knowledge and ability within their organisation.

The structure and design of the training was agreed in advance between ZIMSEC and GradeMaker. Training checklists were created, supporting participants to follow the training in a methodical step-by-step approach and allowing them to tick off a section as it was delivered and understood. 

It was determined that two GradeMaker experts would deliver in-person training: one to deliver the interactive sessions, and one to focus on creating on-screen content and providing one-to-one support for participants requiring extra help. This would allow the trainer to continue with the flow for the rest of the group.

36 individuals were invited to the training sessions, a mix of:

  • Subject Managers
  • Confidential Secretaries and Typesetters
  • Paper Reviewers
  • Graphic Artists


Stage 2: The training sessions

GradeMaker’s Conor Byrne, Implementation Consultant, and Chloe Smith, Service Delivery Consultant, spent three days with ZIMSEC in August 2023.

The sessions covered a wide range of roles, functions and processes in GradeMaker, including:

  • Authoring items
  • Creating papers
  • Reviewing items and papers
  • Finalising papers
  • User management
  • Workflow and syllabus management
  • Project management

Each participant ticked off the areas as they were completed on their individual checklist. They were given time to complete practical assignments in GradeMaker’s training site to practise for themselves and demonstrate their learning and understanding. This practical work was supported by the trainers, with individual help where required, and was based on past papers from each participant’s individual subject area.

Participants were highly engaged with the training, asking questions which prompted in-depth discussions on ways they could maximise the use of all GradeMaker’s features as well as ideas for future developments.

“This training has brought efficiency and excellence to my job. Thank you GradeMaker team, you are awesome.”
Zimsec Ministry of Education
Confidential Secretary/Typesetter

Stage 3: Feedback

As part of the training design, we agreed that participants would be asked to complete a post-training survey at the end of the three days, which rated the content of the sessions, the ability of the trainers, and the learning impact. The feedback from participants was largely excellent, confirming that the teams found the training highly valuable and relevant and that the original objective of user groups feeling more confident in using GradeMaker was achieved.

100% of those who attended training agreed or strongly agreed with these statements: 

“The training was a valuable use of my time.”

“I believe I will apply what I learned in the training to my role at ZIMSEC.”

“I would recommend this training to others with a similar role.”

Group photo of ZIMSEC staff and GradeMaker trainers

What's next for ZIMSEC?

ZIMSEC began authoring their Grade 7 and A-Level exams online in 2024, confident in their deepened knowledge of the system and with a strengthened sense of shared purpose and partnership with GradeMaker.

If your awarding organisation is already using GradeMaker to author exams, and you would like to learn more about the training packages we offer, please get in touch with your GradeMaker consultant today.

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