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Resources and advice for career success

The Death Of Written Assessment…

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Is the written assessment dead?

That was the sentiment of some of the panellists on the recent Institute of Employers (ISE) webinar on AI in education and early talent recruitment. I’ve been wondering about this myself recently. After working in higher education for eleven years, I’ve seen the reliance on written assessment as a way to prove skill mastery and competency across many disciplines. What happens when every student has the ability to gain an advantage at their fingertips? Chaos? Possibly. But are there ways to see this as an opportunity to reenvision the assessment and evaluation landscape? Absolutely. As is the case with most things, the reality is incredibly nuanced.

There’s been a lot of concern and panic surrounding AI in education over the last few months, and quite rightly so, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the positives that AI can bring. It opens a whole new world of possibilities for education such as increased access to knowledge and the potential to equalise learning, particularly in poorer countries (1). It provides students with on-demand 1-1 tutoring, the most effective way of learning according to some studies and is a model that Oxford and Cambridge already use, but with real humans - look how that turned out for them (they’re number 1 and 3 in the 2023 THE World University Rankings!)(2). It can be used to enhance learning if used in the right way, but the ‘right’ way still seems under much debate. We’re only just finding out the possibilities of AI within education, and I’m sure there’s more to come.

But there’s a darker side to AI in education, which I’m sure you’re all too aware of. The 24 Russell Group universities in the UK recently published a document that outlines their principles on the use of generative AI tools in education. It lists some of their key concerns as data privacy, the potential for bias, inaccuracy of data, ethics, and plagiarism–all things that universities and higher education have spent years trying to mitigate. What we do know is that students are already using AI in education or plan to use it. A recent study of university students on their perceptions and usage of AI by Cibyl said that 7 in 10 students would use chat GPT for research-based activities and 50% would use it for exams (3). A whopping 70% of students said they’d use it in job applications, but that’s a whole different story. So, students largely see it as beneficial and a positive thing, but that’s not to say that they think it should be freely used in universities, in that same study, 50% of students said it should be regulated in some way.

Where do we go from here? Well, the AI ship has already sailed and most universities realise they need to embrace AI rather than outrun it. The Russell Group Principles on the Use of Generative AI Tools in Education focus on equipping students and staff to use the technology appropriately by providing support, training and guidance. The document leaves a lot of room for adaptation and interpretation in how their universities respond to this new era, reflecting the evolving and unknown nature of AI in education. What is clear to me is that it’s incredibly hard to regulate and detect how students use generative AI in written work. Open AI themselves say they can only identify what’s been generated by their own AI 26% of the time! We need to find new ways to assess student skills and competencies, and perhaps it’s time to elevate other types of assessment such as video and oral evaluation that rely on a more immediate and spontaneous response. We know that this generation of students struggles with oral communication anyway, so why not make speaking a more integral part of their experience? After all, there is more pressure than ever to align curriculums and assessment practices with the world of work where we rarely write essays but present most days, whether that’s formally or informally. And it’s not just me talking about this, last month, Labour announced a new plan to embed speaking skills in school curriculums. As Keir Starmer said about teaching oracy, ‘it’s not just a skill for learning, it’s also a skill for life.’

So, is the written assessment dead? Not right now, but its dominance may be over.

(1) Horowitz, M. (n.d.). Council Post: The Future Of Education: Embracing AI For Student Success. [online] Forbes. Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].

(2) Devlin, H. and correspondent, H.D.S. (2023). AI likely to spell end of traditional school classroom, leading expert says. The Guardian. [online] 7 Jul. Available at:

(3) (n.d.). How are students using ChatGPT in their studies and the graduate recruitment process? [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].