IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


UCL and Pearson launch AI research partnership

4 February 2020

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) today (4 February) launches a new three-year project collaboration looking at the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in English Language assessment with world learning company Pearson.

Woman using a computer

The research will focus on test-takers end to end experience of taking PTE (Pearson’s leading high stakes test of English) for either study or migration purposes. This fully digital test is delivered through Pearson VUE, the computer-based testing business of Pearson. 

The latest AI technology is used for scoring; biometric data collection provides enhanced security measures and voice recognition software is applied for the speaking element of the test. These cutting-edge technologies ensure the provision of an impartial and highly accurate test of people’s English language proficiency.

The purpose of the research will be to ensure that global test-taker responses are fed back into the ongoing development and use of AI in assessment and to ensure the fairness, accuracy and validity of these tests.

Commissioned by the PTE research team, the project will be led by IOE academics Dr Mary Richardson and Dr Sandra Leaton-Gray.

Dr Mary Richardson said: “If you take an English oral exam, for example, you want a system that gives you the marks you deserve, whether you learned English originating from America, Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Malta or Hong Kong. All those different, slightly subtle local variations in vocabulary and sentence structure need to be built into the assessment model, so you get a fair mark. This is where artificial intelligence can really help us.”

Her views are echoed by Dr Rose Clesham, Director of Academic Standards, Measurement and Research for PTE: “Pearson has been working in the area of Artificial Intelligence in assessment for some time. There is a real potential to revolutionise the way people take low and high stakes tests, the way we mark them and how we provide results and feedback. This new collaboration between PTE and UCL Institute of Education will put our test takers right at the heart of the assessment process.”