SR Infotech develops secure examination solution

Variable digital print generates randomized question and answer booklets

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The recent Indian Supreme Court directive on 10 January 2019 to set up a three-member committee for examination reforms, led by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani and computer scientist Vijay Bhatkar, compelled us to comment and republish our case study of Meteksan — a key player in Turkey’s secure educational eco-system. (See pp. 18,19, Indian Printer and Publisher February 2019). Our current issue contains an article by Akanksha Meena on the recent events in Uttar Pradesh where the government is trying to enforce integrity in its examinations. In the article below, we bring you news of an Indian solution that addresses the creation of a secure examination system. – Editor

When Abhishek Tandon joined the family educational print business, SR Infotech was already handling examination materials for about 5 million candidates a year. After re-assessing the requirements of its clients in 2015, SR Infotech based in North India developed a totally randomized examination question paper and answer booklet system. Some of the clients accepted the system and started receiving regular supplies of 100% randomized question papers – the company has already generated about 8 million question papers so far.

SR Infotech’s software uses latest technologies such as .Net 4.0 for application development and SQL Server for storage of an encrypted question bank along with various reporting software. It uses a number of high-speed Konica Minolta 1250 bizhub presses with a cumulative capacity of printing 1 million A4 impressions in a day and a SPF2000L Horizon Digital Booklet maker in its production center along with automated packaging machines.

Abhishek Tandon of SR Infotech
Abhishek Tandon of SR Infotech

The present capacity is to produce approximately 35,000 question booklets a day in a controlled and secure printing environment where every stage is highly automated with minimal human intervention or interference. Each printed page carries a unique barcode, which is used at various stages in the production cycle for automation. The audit system, using in-house developed software, accounts for each and every page. Tandon says, “We are now planning to add inkjet presses to increase our capacity to the next level.”

 

100% randomized question booklets

A tamper-evident system – how it works

“Today various examining bodies in India have shown great concern for holding fair examinations in the face of challenges thrown by unscrupulous elements who have almost hijacked the system of Objective Type Examinations using modern technological tools. Hence, there is an urgent need to rebuff these unscrupulous actors by adopting technology to eliminate their designs and re-build the confidence of masses in general. With this objective we have developed a system which is simple and is worth considering as an alternative to the present system,” says Tandon.

“We have developed a unique, highly secured and tamper-evident system of question paper printing and processing which we are continuously supplying to some of the most reputed recruitment bodies in India. The Proposed System is quite simple but highly effective. We create individual booklets for each candidate by randomizing the sequence of questions for every candidate against their Booklet No/Roll No. so that no two candidates will have the same sequence of questions in their question paper,” he adds.
The SRI software randomizes the answer options for every question so that no question will have the same sequence of answers for different candidates. This randomization is done on the basis of a key generated (referred to as Randomization Key) by the computer against every Booklet No. before the start of the printing process.

The system will change the current process of printing just four sets of Question Booklets and replace it with a unique sequence of questions and answers in booklets printed for every candidate irrespective of the number of candidates appearing. For example, if 20 lakh (2 million) candidates are appearing in an exam, the same number of unique question papers (one for each candidate) will have their own jumbling sequence of questions and their answers. The system can print the candidate’s roll number and photograph on the booklet if required. In the optical mark recognition (OMR) answer sheet, the candidate fills her booklet number/roll number only. This ensures that each candidate gets a separate sequence of questions as well as answers and makes it impossible for anyone to copy answers without fully reading and understanding the questions.

2-tier security architecture

This system also provides a 2-tier security architecture during the evaluation process as the system works on two keys, i.e. a randomization key generated before the printing of question papers and the answer key available with the examining body. At the time of evaluation of the OMR answer sheets, the answers of the candidate will be first converted into the original form/manuscript form using the randomization key and only then can the answer key be applied to generate the merit list. This greatly enhances the security of the data scanned from the OMR sheets as no meddling with the data is possible during the scanning and result preparation. For this also the software is provided for converting the marked answers into manuscript format with a single click.

The system can also be further customized to provide different questions to candidates by randomly selecting questions from a pool of questions or question bank. “The new system is designed in such a way that even in the worst case of a question paper and answer key being leaked, a candidate can use the leaked answer key for not more than 25% of the questions. A cheat will eventually end up attracting negative marking on the remaining 75% of the questions for which he has marked wrong answers using the leaked answer key. The system can provide a 100% leak proof solution in the offline examination environment,” says Tandon.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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