Digital Exam Authoring: 2023 In Review

Get a run through of everything that’s new with GradeMaker Pro in 2023.

Whether you have been looking at getting GradeMaker for a while, or already use the system, this article will give you a quick digest of this year’s key updates.

Here are just a few of the exciting projects the GradeMaker Team have been working on this year:

Joining the AQA Group

Our first piece of headline news for 2023 was that after working closely for many years, we officially became part of the AQA Group.

This exciting move brings us into a family of services which already offers advanced assessment services to awarding bodies around the world. 

We are also now getting even more support to accelerate our development plans from the team at AQA, the UK’s most chosen exam board and charity with over 120 years of experience in high-stakes testing.

PrintPrep in Action

Further good news came this year when one of our newest customers, City & Guilds, got up and running with our unique assisted typesetting feature in record time. In under 9 months they went from first training session to first typeset paper ready for candidates. 

By utilising PrintPrep, they were able to produce a set of exam papers from authoring to print without requiring manual intervention by typesetters.

This was a key milestone in our continuing refinement of PrintPrep as a unique and valuable flagship service that GradeMaker provides.

Find out more about PrintPrep here.

Version Compare Launch

In May this year we also launched a pilot of our brand-new quality and accountability assurance feature, Version Compare.

Version Compare is an optional, additional feature in GradeMaker which allows users to easily see any changes that have been made between two different versions of an item or paper, using a colour-coded system.  

We trialled with several of our customers for a six month period, and gathered some very valuable feedback.

Going forward, we expect this feature to be of great assistance and value to awarding organisations as part of their quality and audit processes.

Find out more about Version Compare here.

Improvements and Upgrades

In 2023, we delivered 16 releases of improvements and upgrades – up from 10 in 2022.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the main features we have released this year:

Computer-based testing:

  • Formative Testing: If an organisation has our computer-based testing module enabled, they can now capture multiple-choice answer feedback. This has been especially designed for formative tests where candidates are shown correct or incorrect answer feedback on-screen when they select their answer. The feedback is included in the standard QTI output for the item.
  • Exporting for On-Screen: Customers can also bulk export QTI file packages for a selection of items. This saves significant time when exporting tests for use in online assessment platforms – items can simply be searched for and selected within a folder, rather than needing to create papers within GradeMaker in order to bulk export.

Content editing tools:

  • Table Tools Improvements: We’ve ensured the creation of tables in GradeMaker is now even more straightforward and user-friendly, and that tables render more consistently in PrintPrep.
  • Content Editing: We have made a range of ‘quality of life’ improvements to the question writing process, including adding borders to content blocks, to achieve a separate piece of text or quote in a box. The development team also made some new additions to our editing toolbar, such as the ability to strikethrough and circle text, create word-based equations, and use a range of new special characters.

Workflow management:

  • In Workflow Flexibility: We know that things can change during the test creation process, and you need to be able to react to changes within your team. That’s why we have added the ability to edit a milestone date assigned to the current workflow step of an item or paper, and to reassign a user at a current workflow step.
  • Quality Assurance Forms: We have added a new question option for your Quality Assurance (QA) forms, to allow extra flexibility for your reviewers. When building a form, selecting the question type ‘Yes/No/Not applicable’ will allow respondents to select ‘Not applicable’ as a possible answer. This will be useful for QA forms which include questions such as ‘Confirm you have checked all images (if applicable)’ – respondents can simply tick ‘Not applicable’ rather than manually typing this information into the ‘No’ text box.

Other improvements:

  • Autosave: Following customer feedback we’ve implemented a new autosave feature to make sure none of your hard work is lost. If you are logged out of GradeMaker following a period of inactivity, any unsaved content changes will now automatically be saved prior to automatic logout.
  • Search Improvements: When you have a large bank of tests or items, you’ll want to navigate them as quickly and accurately as possible. That’s why when you use the advanced search function, you will now see some brand-new search criteria, including date range of item creation/submission/approval, and whether items are suitable for print and/or computer-based testing.

The Development Roadmap

We’ve created a development roadmap to give an indication of our development plans in 2024 and beyond.

The roadmap highlights major projects for new features as well as incremental enhancements to GradeMaker’s functionality.

The roadmap is reviewed on a regular basis and incorporates feedback and learning we receive from our community of users. We share the latest iteration of the roadmap with our customers during business review meetings.

Supporting Our Customers

User Training

We were delighted to deliver in-person user training for three of our customers this year, including two international visits – with more planned for 2024.

Where teams needed faster, more flexible training provision, we also delivered customised sessions online.

We received great feedback from users who attended our training sessions and always have a plan in place to further support users following the training. We have the flexibility to deliver both training options effectively.

Customer Support

This year we received 202 support desk tickets from customers, an increase of 35% from 2022. Despite this, we continued to uphold our high standards from last year. Our average first response time remains well under SLA, and we met SLAs 99% of the time for first responses and overall ticket resolution.

We received 100% positive customer feedback scores on tickets and look forward to continuing to offer a high level of support to our customers into 2024.

Help Centre

To continue to support our users who want the flexibility to get help anywhere, anytime, we’ve produced several new user guides and videos in the Help Centre, including materials on creating tables, bulk exporting, and adding borders around text.

As ever, ease of use remains one of our top priorities, therefore we have added new step-by-step animations to guide users through our Item Controls areas. We’ve also updated the existing animations, to ensure they are in line with recent developments in GradeMaker.

We’ve also updated a significant number of our existing user guides and videos over the past year, so they better reflect our current functionality following releases.

Collaboration Forums

Team leaders using GradeMaker Pro are invited to our new monthly collaboration forums, where they can discuss the current challenges and opportunities in assessment development.

These virtual meetings provide a relaxed environment for team leaders to share ideas and gather insights from others facing the same issues as them. 

Representatives from a number of our awarding organisations use these informal sessions to problem solve and discuss topics relevant to enhancing their processes, including their use of GradeMaker, and trends in the wider educational assessment sector.

If you’re interested in joining this community network, just get in touch with your GradeMaker consultant.

Our Growing Team

We were delighted to welcome Nicola Taylor (Senior Client Success Consultant) to our Delivery team in January and, in November, we were also joined by Kelly Daye (Service Delivery Coordinator).

Nic and Kelly both work closely with our customers to ensure their teams are achieving everything they hope to with GradeMaker.

We’ve also expanded our team of developers and testers this year.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about GradeMaker Pro, just get in touch

  • If you’re already using the system and want to find out more about our new features, you can contact your existing GradeMaker consultant or email
  • If you’d like to find out about getting GradeMaker for your organisation, just fill in the form below for an online demo.

Our Customers

We are proud to work with a wide range of leading assessment organisations.