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Cyberattack delaying Portuguese language certificates for Portugal students

January 25, 2022

Original Article: https://www.theportugalnews.com/news/2022-01-09/cyberattack-delaying-portuguese-language-certificates/64453

On 30 October, the servers of the University of Lisbon suffered a computer attack that also affected the Centre for Assessment and Certification of Portuguese as a Foreign Language (CAPLE), which affected the attribution of classifications for exams carried out between 9 and 12 November.

The Portugal News had access to an email sent to an examinee where CAPLE states that the exam classifications will be delivered, without any certainty, in February. This information was provided by Peter Smith, who sent us the email.

Nélia Alexandre is CAPLE's director, told The Portugal News that the delay in assigning grades is essentially due to the impossibility of scanning the exams for a direct-response software that “automatically classifies the parts of the exams” and “analyses the [candidate] performance answer by answer." The same happens in the assessment of the written part of the exam.

At the time of exams that took place, in November, CAPLE received 2,000 candidates. The written evaluation is done by at least two professionals, who will have to read about "8,000 written texts." According to Nélia Alexandre, "it is the most time-consuming task and as it depends on the digitisation and anonymisation of the answer sheets", the cyberattack delayed the process of sending the answers to the evaluators, "who, meanwhile, had other appointments scheduled." After a first assessment, the ratings still have to be checked by a third person, to "check out different ratings."

Affecting lives

The centre's director admits that she understands “how much the delay in assigning ratings affects the lives of many people” who need a valid certificate to be handed over to entities that require it. Despite intending to deliver the results as soon as possible, Nélia Alexandre told The Portugal News that there is no way to speed up the assessment process, as it could influence “the quality of the certification” that CAPLE offers to exam candidates. Thus, the centre has already made known about the cyberattack to “universities, embassies and language schools that collaborate” with CAPLE. In the case of those who need the certificate to obtain Portuguese citizenship, the candidate may ask CAPLE for a statement on how they took the exam, as SEF has already been informed by the entity about what happened.

According to the CAPLE website, the entity “is the only one” in Portugal that “evaluates and certifies written and oral skills in Portuguese as a foreign language”, with the attribution of a certificate that can be used for several reasons: studies, work and even in acquiring Portuguese citizenship. It is also CAPLE that writes the exams, classifies them and issues the certificate, which will be valid for life. The tests can be taken at the entity's exam centres in Portugal or those spread over 34 countries.

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