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Computer-based testing – The exam of the future

Computer-based testing – The exam of the future

More and more institutes and organizations are shifting from familiar paper-based examination methods to computer-based testing (CBT). CBT does away with examination papers and manual evaluation. Instead, this process enables candidates to appear in a computer-based test, and special software is used to evaluate their answers. Computer-based tests can be administered on the internet, or in examination centers by using a number of computers connected to a central computer or server. In this way, a large number of candidates can take a test. Adopting this process, schools can put an end to difficulties related to printing, distributing and evaluating hundreds or thousands of test papers.

Numerous advantages

CBT has a number of advantages over the long-practiced paper-based testing method. The most important advantage is considerable savings in costs and effort that would otherwise have been spent for creating, printing, distributing, supervising and evaluating each test. Through CBT, test creation can be done using the testing software, with no requirement of printing and distribution of question papers, and software is used to evaluate a candidate’s answers almost immediately.

Further, CBT can ensure that each candidate sees a random selection of questions in a given section so that every test is made unique and fewer variations are needed to prevent cheating. Since there are no printed exam papers that can be misplaced or misused in CBT, security associated with this process is structurally sound.

Candidates also benefit from CBT in a number of ways. Tests administered over the internet may allow candidates to choose the date, time and location as per their convenience. Advanced software can make the overall presentation of the test more appealing by using multimedia and interactive content, thus letting candidates concentrate better. Answers and corrections are also clearly identified in CBT, eliminating mistakes due to unclear or smudged responses. Finally, as the evaluation is done using the testing software, students benefit from unbiased scoring and quick evaluation time.

Computerized Adaptive Testing

A kind of CBT, it is useful for evaluating the overall level of the ability of a candidate. In an adaptive test, a candidate begins the test by answering a question of medium difficulty. If he/she answers correctly, a more difficult question is asked. If, on the other hand, he/she answers incorrectly, an easier question is asked. In this way, the difficulty of each question depends on the candidate’s responses to all previous questions.

Adaptive tests provide a more accurate analysis of a candidate’s level of ability than simple CBTs, using fewer questions and therefore, less time. However, these kinds of tests have some disadvantages in that the questions must first be tested for difficulty on a large number of test candidates. Also, candidates are not allowed to review and change their responses to previous questions, since that would make the subsequent question invalid. These tests may also not be suitable for ‘pass or fail’ evaluations.

The future of examination

Even though some drawbacks may exist in adaptive testing, it is clear that CBT in general has many advantages over conventional testing methods. It is these advantages that make CBT the examination method of the future, where everyone will use CBTs instead of  conventional paper-based tests.

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