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Navigating the Evolution of Language Testing with Cirrus Assessment

Navigating the Evolution of Language Testing with Cirrus Assessment

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Anglia Examinations, a subsidiary of Chichester College, has been a frontrunner in offering English exams to international learners. With a global presence across 30 to 40 countries, Anglia has evolved their exam delivery, especially in response to challenges like COVID-19 and the need for e-assessment platforms.

Since adopting Cirrus, Anglia has achieved tremendous results:

“I am a 100% convert. Give me a Cirrus paper any day over a handwritten script.” Alice Osman, Chief Examiner, Anglia Examinations


Founded over 30 years ago, Anglia began as a small initiative on the island of Cyprus and has since blossomed into an international examination board. Their unique 10-step examination system, catering to young learners (0-A1) to professional English speakers (C2), offers clear guidelines for teachers and students, ensuring transparency and progression. Headquartered in Chichester, UK, Anglia functions primarily through a franchise system, ensuring local expertise in various international markets.


Initially relying on traditional paper-based exams, Anglia embarked on a journey to transition to an e-assessment platform, catalysed by the perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. Already having some experience with online exams for business courses, Anglia decided to expand this to their entire range. The partnership with Cirrus emerged as a crucial step in this transformation.

Global Logistics and Scalability 

Managing paper-based exams for a growing international student base presented significant logistical challenges. Shipping, tracking, and handling physical exam papers across 30 to 40 countries was time-consuming and prone to delays and complications, especially in light of external factors.

External Factors – Brexit and COVID-19

External factors like Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these logistical challenges. Brexit introduced new complexities in shipping and customs, particularly affecting exam paper transit to and from countries like the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed an unprecedented challenge, necessitating a swift pivot to online platforms, or else face indefinite exam delays.

Technology Adaptation and Resistance to Change

The move towards e-assessment required significant changes in technology and mindset. Some of Anglia’s traditional markets, accustomed to paper-based exams, initially resisted this change. Overcoming this inertia and convincing stakeholders of the benefits of a digital approach was a huge challenge.

Infrastructure and Accessibility Concerns

In several of Anglia’s operating regions, infrastructural limitations such as inadequate IT equipment, loadshedding, or unstable WiFi made adopting online exams seemingly impossible. This was particularly true in less developed markets where such resources were scarce.

Training and Familiarity with New Systems

The transition to an e-assessment platform required extensive training and familiarisation for both Anglia’s staff and its franchisees. Ensuring smooth operation and support for this new system was vital to its successful implementation.

Balancing Paper and Digital Exams

Even with the push towards digital, Anglia had to balance online and paper exams to cater to diverse market needs. This dual approach required careful management and resource allocation.


Given the challenges Anglia faced, the quest began to find an e-assessment system that could effectively address these issues. That’s when they discovered Cirrus – and in order for the project to be successful, these solutions had to be met and exceeded:

Rapid COVID-19 Response

When COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Anglia had to think fast. Cirrus provided a rapid integration solution, essential for maintaining exam continuity when lockdown measures made traditional, in-person exams out of the question.

Leveraging Existing Online Experience

Anglia wasn’t new to the e-assessment world. Although they had previously used an online platform, they needed more flexibility. This familiarity with exam software allowed for Anglia to make the move to Cirrus naturally.

Customisation and Flexibility

The real charm of Cirrus lay in its ability to mould to Anglia’s needs. Whether it was adapting to different exam formats or levels, this flexibility ensured a smooth online transition for both candidates and teachers.

Dedicated Training and Support

Cirrus offered comprehensive training and support, which was crucial to the platform’s successful implementation. Cirrus’ support team, with Mathijs and Martijn at the helm, ensured Anglia’s team and franchisees were all set to roll with the new system.

Partnership Potential and Ongoing Collaboration

Anglia’s choice of Cirrus was influenced by the potential for a long-term partnership, recognising the value in a collaborator for continuous platform development and optimisation.

Adaptable Infrastructure Solutions

Given the global nature of Anglia’s exams, Cirrus’s ability to function effectively across varied infrastructures was a key selection factor.

Security and Integrity Prioritised

Addressing security concerns about online exams, Cirrus’s platform provided robust features to uphold Anglia’s high-quality and integrity standards.

“​​I’ve only worked with Cirrus for the last 12-18 months, but I have to say the level of training and communication has been second to none. It’s been fantastic.” Sam Chennell, Head of Operations, Anglia Examinations


Initial Steps and Rapid Deployment:

The first phase of Anglia Examinations’ transition to an e-assessment platform with Cirrus was characterised by rapid deployment, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. This urgency required a swift and focused approach. The implementation began with:

Selecting the Right Partner: Anglia chose Cirrus for its flexibility and capability to customise its platform according to specific needs.

Rapid Deployment Strategy: Given the immediate need due to the pandemic, Cirrus rolled out its platform quickly across Anglia’s examination system, ensuring minimal disruption in exam schedules.

“By cutting down that time spent on marking and transit, that’s what makes us more competitive in our field.” Alice Osman, Chief ExaminerAnglia Examinations

Customisation and Adaptation: The platform was tailored to support Anglia’s unique 10-step examination process, ensuring a seamless digital transition for students and teachers.

Infrastructure Assessment and Adjustments: Recognising the varying infrastructural capabilities in different regions, adjustments were made to ensure the platform’s effectiveness in environments with limited IT infrastructure or internet connectivity.

This initial phase laid the groundwork for a smoother transition and set the stage for more detailed, long-term integration.

Training, Security, and Long-Term Development

The second phase focused on embedding the platform within Anglia’s operational framework, ensuring long-term success. This phase included:

Comprehensive Training and Support: Extensive training sessions were conducted for both Anglia’s staff and franchisees. This step was crucial in ensuring everyone was comfortable and proficient with the new system.

“The feedback that I’ve had from the team was actually really positive about the transition [to Cirrus], I believe, because of the level of training and support that was offered.” Sam Chennell, Head of Operations, Anglia Examinations

Balancing Digital and Paper-Based Exams: A balanced approach was maintained to cater to markets still preferring paper-based exams, ensuring no segment was alienated during the transition.

Enhancing Exam Security and Integrity: Robust security measures were implemented to maintain the integrity of online exams, addressing concerns about transitioning from paper-based methods.

Feedback Loop and Continuous Improvement: Continuous monitoring and feedback were integral to the process, allowing Anglia to make iterative improvements and ensure the system remained up-to-date with educational and technological advancements.

Linear On the Fly Testing: A significant focus for the future is developing a comprehensive question bank for on-demand exams and a randomised exam system that caters to a wide range of topics and maintains the integrity of the testing process.


The implementation of Cirrus’s e-assessment platform at Anglia Examinations yielded significant and measurable benefits, streamlining their operations and enhancing their global competitiveness:

  • Efficiency: Significant reduction in the time from exam completion to result dissemination. Key efficiencies include saving 4 days on printing, 1 day on quality checks and packing, 3-5 days on shipping, and avoiding potential customs delays, culminating in an approximate 40% reduction in turnaround time.
  • Scalability:Anglia’s adoption of online exams, in collaboration with Cirrus, broadened its global presence, especially in Italy, where on-demand exams met critical certification needs. This initiative allowed individuals to pursue career opportunities promptly, demonstrating the effective support for seamless professional advancement.
  • Cost-Effectiveness:Transitioning to digital exams resulted in 40% cost savings on physical logistics and allowed staff to allocate time to more strategic tasks.
  • Adaptability:The platform’s flexibility supported both online and paper-based formats, meeting diverse market and infrastructure needs, and facilitated the gradual shift to digital methods in traditional markets.
  • User Experience:Positive feedback and a preference for digital certificates over paper ones reflected user satisfaction with the new system.
  • Environmental:Reduced paper usage and eliminated the need for physical shipping, lowering the carbon footprint and advancing sustainability efforts.

“As I referred to myself earlier on as a dinosaur – and I am a little bit – because Anglia was very much paper-based. Then Cirrus started, and then Covid [hit], and we had more exams coming through. And obviously I mark papers quite a lot as part of my job and I wasn’t looking forward to having to do online marking, especially essays. But I have to say, I am a 100% convert. Give me a Cirrus paper any day over a handwritten script. Absolutely. I am a convert completely.” Alice Osman, Chief ExaminerAnglia Examinations

“If you can convert Alice, you can convert anyone.” Sam Chennell, Head of Operations, Anglia Examinations

Future Outlook

Anglia aims to further develop their e-assessment capabilities, especially focusing on creating a robust question bank for global on-demand exams. This development is anticipated to aid in offering more flexible testing options, catering to students’ varying needs worldwide using the Cirrus Blueprint Technology with LOFT 3.0.

LOFT, at its most basic description, allows for the generation of unique forms for every candidate, produced by selecting a set number of questions from a large item pool. Anglia will be able to go into Cirrus, setting learning objectives, topics, taxonomies, friends and enemies, and difficulty settings, and create a blueprint for exams that will be randomly generated and as unique as a fingerprint. Candidates can take these exams at any time and place of their choosing. Coupled with online proctoring, this system offers a highly secure, virtually cheat-proof testing environment. Using LOFT 3.0 will dramatically change the way Anglia is able to offer exams, empowering their candidates to take exams whenever the time is right for them.


Anglia Examinations’ journey over the past three decades, culminating in adopting an e-assessment platform, showcases their commitment to growing with tech and educational needs. Their success story is a testament to the power of embracing change and the importance of partnerships in navigating new educational challenges.

The final piece of advice to anyone looking to make the switch to Cirrus e-assessment?

Do it! Trial. Keep trialling it and making notes as you go. And I would say, from my own perspective, if something is different, do not be resistant to it just because it’s different; it might actually be better.” Sam Chennell and Alic


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