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2021 Virtual Conference

The 2021 conference welcomed 251 registered delegates, from 102 organisations, watching 6 hours of inspirational presentations, participating in 12 Q+A sessions and 2 interactive networking sessions, and enjoying 2 fantastic and informative keynotes.

Note: Surpass Assessment is now the company name for BTL and BTL Surpass.

Keynote 1: When things don’t go according to plan in online exams: Giving great answers to tough questions

Michael Dodd is an international speaker, former broadcast journalist and foreign correspondent who helps business leaders, international officials and other professionals like you, to communicate effectively and positively in challenging circumstances.

Michael opens the Surpass Conference with his keynote presentation. In this session he talks about how to respond to issues that could arise in the challenging world of online assessment.


Michael Dodd
International speaker, media and presentation coach at Michael Dodd Communications

Keynote 2: Sustainable education and the wealth of nations

Dr Mike Goodfellow-Smith is a Director of sustainability consultancy firm, Quest for Future Solutions, an academic lecturer and researcher at several universities across the UK, and a mentor and trainer in the EU entrepreneurial programmes ‘Climate KIC’ and ‘Climate Launchpad’.

In his session he covers topics including:

  • How your students and the next generation of entrepreneurs are making a difference, and why this matters.
  • Why should sustainability be an urgent consideration for your organisation?
  • How other organisations are taking action, including Manchester United and the Green Sports Alliance.
  • Life stories on sustainable action from around the globe.


Dr Mike Goodfellow-Smith
Director, Quest for Future Solutions

From paper tests to prototyping – Developing a new framework to create complex item types and simulations without the pain, with Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC)

In this session, BTL’s Jim Crawford is joined by James Young PhD from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). James recounts CXC’s journey from delivering tests on paper to delivering electronically, and talks about how they plan to overcome the challenge of delivering across the 19 territories that CXC covers, while Jim outlines Surpass’ Customizable Question Type (CQT) framework and how we see it being used in the future.


James Young PhD
Item Bank Manager, Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC)

Jim Crawford
Business Development Director, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Surpass Community Stories, with Innovate Awarding, SQA, and Penske

UX research for a better candidate experience in end-point assessments (with Innovate Awarding)

For this session, we’re joined by Innovate Awarding’s Jessica Fowler who has been working closely with BTL on a recent collaboration to better understand the candidate experience, and how we can create better on-screen testing, through shared surveys. Jessica takes us through who Innovate are and the work they do as an Ofqual regulated national awarding organisation and end-point assessment organisation specialising in qualifications in work and apprenticeships. Jessica explores this process end-to-end, including why Innovation felt it was important to carry out this research project and what their goals were prior to beginning. We’ll hear about Innovation’s learnt lessons about the value of qualitative vs quantitative data and their chosen method for this research. Jessica also takes us through her team’s findings and how this will influence their approach towards delivering exams.

Assess Progress (with SQA)

In this presentation, Carolyn Kerr, SQA’s Digital Assessment Services Manager talks through the recent collaboration between BTL and SQA on a new self-scheduling portal, ‘Assess Progress’, to support SQA’s candidates by streamlining the scheduling process. Carolyn discusses the need for the new platform, why their legacy platform was no longer suitable, the challenges faced, and why SQA chose to partner with BTL on the creation of a new portal. Committed to innovation and candidate efficiency, BTL and SQA developed the new Solar Assess Progress – a portal that allows candidates to access a platform to schedule themselves formative assessments. The session explores the benefits of the new portal, what candidates have had to say about it and what’s in store for the future.

The road to Showdown: Using Surpass to deliver competitions (with Penske)

Join Penske’s Andy Howat as he explains how Penske used Surpass to create competition for their thousands of technicians: The Technical Showdown. So, who are they and what is the Showdown? Listen to Andy take us through Penske’s work and how they are using BTL’s technology to innovate their practices. Learn about the Technical Showdown, who it’s for, its objectives and why Penske are challenging their technicians in both hands-on events and their online research abilities via on-screen testing. Penske have a huge, US-national reach with thousands of technicians in 750 locations in America. As such, hear how Surpass has enabled them to remain flexible and inclusive by meeting their unique requirements and vision. Andy takes us through the technical applications of this project, including the testing process as well as Penske’s desire to have a distinct placing in the market and how Surpass was utilised to do this. Lastly, there’s an update from Andy of the Showdown’s progress and any results Penske have seen from their unique assessment methodology.


Jessica Fowler
Client Relationship Manager, Innovate Awarding

Carolyn Kerr
Digital Assessment Services Manager, SQA

Andy Howat
Technical Solutions Specialist, Penske

Surpass Community Stories, with Michigan Language Assessment and telc Language Tests

Changing mode and model: The details and decision points in going digital (with Michigan Language Assessment)

Helping us understand how on-screen testing is being used to revolutionise language assessment, Michigan Language Assessment’s Gad Lim talks us through their experience making the change from paper-based test delivery, and how on-screen testing has opened doors to new opportunities in language assessment. Gad takes us through MLA’s processes of transforming their four skill exams (reading, writing, speaking and listening) from fixed-date paper tests to available-anytime digital offerings as well as their experience moving from linear to linear-on-the-fly (LOFT) testing. Gad describes the work MLA has done to achieve this outcome, including, required modifications to the design and display of the tests, the format, structure and quality assurance, and administration and scoring. The session highlights key decision points that require especially thoughtful consideration, with a focus on the small, practical details of putting together on-screen language tests.

Can I test 24 languages before lunch? (with telc Language Tests)

Joined by Europe’s leading language learning and assessment provider, find out how telc are using Surpass to deliver on-screen language assessments in all 24 EU languages. Project Manager, Sean McDonald, discusses how the European Personnel office tasked telc with the large, complex project to provide language tests on all 24 EU languages. Learn about all the considerations and technical specifications required to deliver this project. Sean talks us through how telc have used Surpass to deliver this at scale and how our dedicated delivery team has helped telc make the project a success.


Gad Lim
Director of Assessment, Michigan Language Assessment

Sean McDonald
Project Manager, telc Language Tests

Surpass Community Stories, with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET)

Implementing Computer Based Testing (with WSET)

Joined by the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s (WSET) Head of Project Management, Romana Moss, we explore the benefits of Computer-Based Testing and the impact on Awarding Organisations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Romana will talk us through who WSET are and their experience with CBT, explaining what WSET were doing prior to lockdown and why WSET were interested in moving their candidates over from paper-based assessment. As the real implications of Covid-19 set in for all of us at the beginning of 2020, Romana explains why Remote Invigilation became crucial to WSET and how, working in partnership with BTL, they were able to implement Remote Invigilation within only 6 weeks. We will also hear WSET’s experience in how best to implement such a large project quickly and securely and the support WSET are offering their candidates with the change.


Romana Moss
Head of Project Management, Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

Surpass Community Stories, with Cambridge University Press & Assessment, OCR, NCFE, and Dainis

The big picture: Cambridge & OCR (with Cambridge University Press & Assessment and OCR)

We’re delighted to chat to Hannah Spry and Phil Cowen as they share background about their organisations and how Surpass is being used to facilitate on-screen assessments for OCR and Cambridge University Press & Assessment. Learn about OCR’s journey with Surpass, including their migration to Surpass Release 12 and later to HTML. Phil walks us through the technical process of migration, including their detailed review procedures, opportunities for migration, lessons learnt from the process and future plans. Hear about how Surpass has helped meet Cambridge’s requirements for high-stake, secure admission testing and what this means for Cambridge University Press & Assessment in the future.

Our online invigilation story (with NCFE)

Join NCFE’s Toni Brooks as she talks us through an overview of what NCFE (Northern Council for Further Education), has been doing over the last 12 months, how they have progressed with Remote Invigilation, and what they will be focussing on over the next 12 months.

Exploring validity models in Surpass (with Dainis)

Dr. Dainis presents a validity model for credentialing exams and discusses how the Surpass platform supports the model. Topics include job task analysis, content creation, standard setting, and operational maintenance of exams.


Hannah Spry
Senior Stakeholder Relations Manager, Cambridge University Press & Assessment

Phil Cowen
Business Change Manager, OCR

Toni Brooks
QA Assessment Platform Manager, NCFE

Amanda Dainis
Chief Executive Officer, Dainis

Upcoming Surpass features

In this session, our Chief Product Officer, John McGrath is joined by members of the Surpass Product Team to introduce some of the most interesting upcoming features of Surpass. This includes new functionality relating to marking, LOFT, paper-based tests and our Test Creation Wizard. We explain the background to why community members wanted to see these features in Surpass and provide some ideas as to how you might choose to use them.


John McGrath
Chief Product Officer, BTL(now Surpass Assessment)

Company update

Hear an update from Sonya Whitworth, Andy McAnulla and Jim Crawford about all the changes we’ve seen at BTL and in the assessment industry over the last 18 months. Learn about our new global partnerships and how they have allowed us to provide assessment solutions to new regions and industries. We also discuss how BTL has been supporting our customers’ move to hybrid delivery models that blend test centre delivery with remote proctoring options, through the huge expansion of BTL’s test delivery over the last 18 months, as we have continued to develop our flexible test administration options for customers and their candidates.


Andy McAnulla
President, BTL Surpass (now Surpass Assessment)

Jim Crawford
Business Development Director, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Sonya Whitworth
Managing Director, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

The Surpass release cycle: insight into the development process

In this session, John McGrath, our Chief Product Officer, and Becca Murdoch, our Chief Quality Officer, provide details about how new developments and ideas are added to the Surpass platform, and describe the development methodologies that we employ to build these additions. We walk you through how an idea becomes functionality, moving from change requests through to usable product innovations.


John McGrath
Chief Product Officer, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Rebecca Murdoch
Chief Quality Officer, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Surpass Certification: Are you a Surpass expert?

In this session, join Kat from the Surpass Training team to find out more about the project to update the Surpass Certification, our knowledge validation assessment. Kat outlines what Surpass Certification is and discusses the work that the training team have done to implement a new and improved version. Learn why becoming a certified user of Surpass can benefit you and your organisation and find out how to test your Surpass knowledge!


Kat Murie
Product Trainer, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

The booking system: Our journey so far

In this session, Ceri Harper and Sue Palmer from our Test Delivery Services team outline our Test Delivery services offering and explain why BTL decided to implement a booking portal. They detail how we settled on our desired outcomes and how the solution was developed, including the user research and testing phases. Finally, Ceri and Sue describe the current status of this project and what the next steps are to achieving this goal, before taking questions from the audience.


Ceri Harper
Head of Test Delivery Services, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Sue Palmer
Test Delivery Manager, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Take advantage of the Surpass Test Conversion Service

In this session, Ashleigh introduces you to our Test Conversion Service, supporting Surpass community members with item creation and migration projects, content analysis and guidance on Surpass use, exam composition and publishing, and quality review of the candidate experience.

Ashleigh is joined by Lynne Shindoll (American Academy of Neurology) and Bhavini Patel (Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK), both of whom have first-hand of utilising the Test Conversion Service, to talk about their experiences and what the service allowed them to achieve.


Ashleigh Whittle
Training Manager, BTL (now Surpass Assessment)

Want to find out more about the topics discussed?

Contact the Surpass team

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