keep it simple, stupid

8 steps

You’re a leaving cert student. You want a maths exam paper from 2007. Here’s what the department of education make you go through to get it online…

An 8 Step Process

  1. go to
  2. click on ‘examination papers’.
  3. tick a checkbox.
  4. select ‘exam papers’ from a drop down menu.
  5. select year from a drop down menu.
  6. select ‘leaving cert’ from another drop down menu.
  7. select ‘maths’ from a list of subjects in a drop down menu.
  8. click link to download / view paper.

It’s the same to get a marking scheme. So if i want a maths exam paper and a marking scheme for just one year, it takes about 15 ‘actions’.

It’s just typical

Education is all about the student. Giving them the best possible opportunities & environment to fulfill their potential. It was drilled in to me as a leaving cert student that exam papers and marking schemes were a crucial part of planning and preparation for exams. And they are. So why then does the department of education make it so difficult to get them? That’s a good question.

Back in January i contacted them about this and asked them if i had permission to store & distribute papers on our server. I didn’t get a yes or no answer but more like a “tehnically no because papers include images and articles from third parties and we can’t speak on behalf of them” answer. So all we could / can do is link to their papers.

Cracked Open

From then until now i sort of forget about the exam paper section and the ridiculous process you have to go through to get them on Last week i then sat down and reverse engineered their exam paper & marking scheme structure. So that speeds up the whole process of linking to exam papers, i don’t have to manually tick check boxes and select from drop down menus to get links. So in a head to head battle of ‘how quickly can i get what i’m looking for’ between and, be destroyed once we get all exam paper links listed and up to date.

Where are the problem finders?

I’m no usability expert but i was able to spot this problem straight away, in fact i remember discovering it back when i was a leaving cert student myself. If i can shave approx 70% off the time it takes to get exam papers, why the hell can’t someone at do it or whoever is in charge of their web development / maintenance?

The reality is this is a small problem, but it’s incredibly frustrating for users. Worst of all, it could be solved quickly and easily. On where’s the feedback section? Where’s the ‘help us improve our website’ attitude? It’s non existent. Simply having a contact form on a site isn’t good enough. Feedback should be in public, and it should be acknowledged and answered in public.

Because people aren’t complaining doesn’t mean everything is rosey. Complaints should be welcomed, not feared. And it should be easy to complain too…

6 thoughts on “keep it simple, stupid”

  1. It’s a lot better than what was available when I did my Leaving Cert ….. nada/zilch.

    Perhaps people look for too much convenience these days?

    If I had access to papers and marking schemes when I sat my exams it would have made life easier for me.

    I didn’t so I just had to get on with it.

  2. But adopting that attitude means things never move forward, ok people may not appreciate your efforts no matter what you do but helping a few people out makes it worthwhile.

    Ultimately, you’re right, people will at some stage have to just plough on themselves and learn for themselves… you can’t sit exams for people.

    But this is just another tiny little reason why somebody who *thinks* about doing some work, won’t – because it’s just too much hassle to download all past papers & marking schemes.

    Online college courses – education doesn’t come much more convenient than that. For many, it’s the only chance they get to go to college / get a degree.

    So convenience is important, not to be confused with laziness.

  3. as someone who works in education I despair at the way the Education Sector deals with IT.

    I have IT skills but I don’t really apply them to my work anymore. I just do the basic.

    The school I’m in at the moment don’t even know that I can design/create websites and I ain’t going to tell them though they haven’t got one and are talking about getting one developed.

    I’ve spent countless hours promoting IT in schools but all for nought so I ain’t promoting it anymore.

    The site is probably as good as it’s going to get because the people in charge aren’t motivated enough to provide an efficient product.

  4. I can tell that simply by looking at the likes of and and the awful collection of school websites around the country.. I know that in fairness to schools, most can’t afford to develop a website and it’s a luxury. As you say orders come from the top and it’s those guys who need to be shown *why* schools need to be online.

    But i find it remarkable that a lot of schools don’t have any web presence at all.. I’m not a parent, but if i needed to contact a school quickly for whatever reason, the first place i’d go would be google. Phone numbers, directions, schools in the nearby area… i want to know all of this if i’m a parent. The parents of today probably don’t think the same way i do, but the parents of tomorrow will.

    Anyway, this is all stuff we’re working on at, as the saying goes if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself 🙂

    We’ll be putting every school in the country online whether they like it or not 😉

  5. By all means put the schools online …. most are already – via third party sites … and to be honest it makes no odds to them.

    The Dept of Ed and Skills has a downloadable excel file with all schools on it with phone numbers listed …. that’s as creative as they get.

    I have learned …. do my job … teach the curriculum …. no more …. no less ‘cos it’s the same pay I’ll get.

    Web site development I’ll do on my own time and make money out of it. IT in schools was and is a joke and will continue to be a joke because less and less money/inovation will be applied to IT within schools.

  6. On behalf of the State Examinations Commission, I am delighted to welcome you to our website. This website is designed to provide useful information on the examinations system to candidates, parents, teachers, school personnel and indeed anyone with an interest in the Irish State Examinations system. The website is also designed to complement our range of on line services: the On-Line Results Service; the On-Line Appeals Payment Service and the On-Line External Candidate Application Service. These on-line services are among a number of technology-based initiatives introduced in recent years to improve the efficiency and safeguard the security of the examination process. Last year, more than 24,000 Irish students used the Results Service to access their results from over 40 different countries. The State Examinations Commission is committed to making optimum use of state-of-the-art technology in order to develop and enhance our services.
    Information and Communication Technology has a vital role to play in ensuring that the examination process is effective, open and transparent. At the heart of this is providing candidates with access to past examination papers, marking schemes and their own examination scripts and providing detailed information on each step of the process. This level of access and communication has been enabled by continuous investment in, and exploitation of, key information technology tools.
    We are committed to ensuring that our website is both useful and easy to use. Please click here to e-mail us with your questions and comments.We welcome your comments and value your opinions.

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