Sticking barcodes a very easy task

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am

Principals' predictions of 'potential chaos' failed to materialise when students got to grips with a new system of personalised barcode labels as this year's public examinations kicked off this week.

Just over 600 students taking the HKCEE physical education theory paper on Tuesday morning became the first to identify their exams using stick-on barcoded labels rather than filling in personal information by hand - a change aimed at reducing human error.

Secondary school heads had earlier warned some students might be confused by the unfamiliar stickers, as they had been unveiled by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority less than a week before the exams were due to start.

But while many students leaving Delia Memorial School in Kwun Tong - one of four centres where the physical education exam was being held - said their schools had not told them about the labels or shown them how to apply them, the change had presented them few problems.

'I hadn't seen or heard anything about the stickers until I went into the exam room,' said Judy Kwok, 17. 'But it was quite simple, and we were given very clear instructions.'

Leung Wan-ho, 18, from Ying Wa College, said the change gave him more confidence his paper would be correctly identified.

'I had been worried that I might be too nervous and fill in my details wrongly,' he said.

However, students from Chong Gene Hang College in Chai Wan said invigilators had not given enough time to attach the labels.

'We were only given 20 seconds. You have to put quite a few stickers onto the different pages, and I hadn't finished sticking mine down when they told us to start the exam,' said Lai Tsz-chung, 17.

His classmate, 16-year-old Lo Tik-long, said: 'It was the first time I had seen the labels so I was a little confused.'

Using barcodes is the first in a series of moves the examinations authority is introducing to modernise its operations. Each barcode is unique to a particular student and exam, and they are being introduced to virtually all HKCEE and A-level exams this year.

They are not being used in multiple-choice exams and subjects such as visual arts.

Individual stickers need to be attached to the top of each page of the answer booklet, ensuring that each sheet has its own identifying label when the booklets are taken apart to be scanned.

Scanned images of answer booklets will this year be stored on computer in case answer scripts are misplaced during marking.

The exams authority lost six papers last year, adding to 77 it had misplaced over the preceding five years. The authority plans to use the scanned images to pilot a computerised on-screen marking system next year.