What piece of advice would you give to anyone planning a
career in assessment?
1. This may seem a strange thing to say, but think about
what sort of person you are. If you like numbers, get
satisfaction from analysis and study, then research and
psychometrics is a fascinating field. Not only in
relation to cognitive assessment, but also behavioural
and personality types.
2. If you prefer to be active and like organising, then
the challenges of making assessments work well with good
processes is also fascinating. There are not so many
people in the business who can do this really well – so
picking this field provides a lot of opportunity – not
just in the UK but overseas as well.
3. Get some good groundwork in, though, with people who
know what they are doing. This would generally be with a
larger assessment or awarding organisation – small
businesses tend to take a more parochial view of the
Thinking back over your career, what would you rank as
the most important innovation in management of
For me, the lessons learned running national tests for
England and making this happen on a large scale,
including both programme managing and risk managing. The
development of electronic marking also changed the game
not only through process management and improvement, but
also the ability to control marking quality. This has
been a paradigm shift in marking processes leading to
better confidence in outcomes.
What would you say was the biggest challenge facing
awarding bodies today?
1. I would say keeping up with the changes in the
educational environment. Not only meeting changes
created by political drivers, but also the use of
technology. There are not many smaller awarding bodies
that have the breadth and depth of experience to know
how to decide on their future pathway, and they will
have to recognise that they cannot do this themselves.
They will need input from others who have trodden the
road. The challenge is to make the changes sooner rather
than later, when circumstances force the issue and
others have moved before you.
2. In the vocational world, the biggest challenges have
been created by the new apprenticeship programme and
assessments. It is extremely difficult to keep up with
the complexities of operation, let alone to create
assessments that are valid.
Do you think that the use of paper in examinations will
be phased out or will it always have a role?
1. This depends upon the context. With less
time-critical, large-scale assessments, paper will go
sooner rather than later. In addition, where the testing
framework requires more than assessment of domain skills
and content, e-assessments have a vital role to play.
2. For larger-scale examinations, until the testing
approach and paradigm changes (i.e. all students sit the
same test on the same day at the same time), paper will
remain for quite some time to come.
What do you think have been the most useful technical
advancements in assessment software?
1. Digitalisation of examination answers – whether
images or data input by students. This has created a new
paradigm where the same answer can be viewed many times,
processed in different ways and marking quality checked.
2. The move to tablet delivery is a big change,
especially for countries where national infrastructure
cannot be relied on, so you can make use of the mobile
phone network, rather than fixed-line or wireless
3. Advancements in the quality of
software has meant that more organisations can now offer
professional invigilated exams over the web, avoiding
the need for in-person invigilators and test centres,
which gives a lot of flexibility when running exams
What are the most dramatic changes you have seen in the
running of exams over the course of your career?
1. The move from processing on paper to digital.
2. The ability to have on-demand validated items that
can be created as tests on demand, with parallel levels
3. The use of digital information in research that
provides research processes and data sets that could
only have been achieved (if at all) at great expense
What’s the most unusual assessment story you have
encountered or experienced?
1. The candidate who wrote to the examiner in an ‘S
level’ paper, “My Dad says that if I don’t write
anything in this paper, you won’t get paid. Is this
2. The note put into a packet of scripts for A Level
Physics taken in Malawi, which said “During the
examination, the roof blew off the hall where the
candidates were sitting. We gave them 10 minutes extra
3. A paper boy, who stole a package from the porch of
one of his rounds, only to find it was examination
paper. A farmer found it three weeks later in a ditch at
the side of one of his fields … discarded!
4. An examiner was using an online marking tool and
found that it did not work properly. On close
questioning, it was found that she was using a keyboard
bought in Russia…
Have you had a professional mentor who was especially
influential in your career? If yes, what lessons or
advice have proven to be most impactful for you?
Several. The most impactful is to believe that you can
achieve what you set out to do and not let your own
doubts get in the way. Also, do not to let others who
create doubts or who are not in line with your goals
stop you. If they do, then get rid of them! Find the
people who are successful, talk to them, ask their
advice, copy their habits.
What social media platforms do you use regularly, and,
of these, which one do you find to be the most useful in
your professional life?
LinkedIn – the best for me in this professional
What business book or blog have you found most
interesting or useful in the past year?
‘What to say when you talk to yourself’, by Shad
Helmstetter. A small book, but a powerful one for
dealing with self-doubt and improving your self-esteem.
Graham Hudson is a long-standing member of the
educational assessment community, having worked in the
sector for 35 years. He has been involved in many of the
significant developments in general qualifications,
including the introduction of GCSEs, Curriculum 2000 and
National Curriculum at Key Stage 4.
Whilst at QCA he was responsible for the marking and
collecting data for the Key Stage tests and after a move
to DRS Data Services Limited was part of the team
responsible for the first implementation for the live
marking of UK examinations using scanned scripts. His
interest in eAssessment started whilst at QCA where he
led a development change programme involving all the
regulatory bodies in the UK looking at the uses of new
technologies in assessment, having won several £m of
funding from the Treasury. He now runs his own
consultancy businesses supporting organisations in the
assessment sector in the UK and internationally.
His great passion is to harness technology of all kinds
to improve the examination experience that candidates
face, the reliability of the assessments and marking
If you’ve enjoyed this assessment blog post, follow this
link to read more insights from
eassessment expert Paula Goddard.
For more information on assessment and computer-based
exams, download our
5-Step Guide to Online Examinations here.