Article: How technology is improving assessment programmes in India

By Divyalok Sharma, Senior Director of client development at Pearson VUE India

Whether we are transferring money between bank accounts, making travel reservations online or downloading music and books, technology has changed the way in which we live and work.

Divyalok Sharma, Senior Director of client development
at Pearson VUE India

No modern workplace is complete without a computer – whether that is a desktop, laptop, or tablet – so it is natural for many tech-savvy professionals sitting exams to be assessed via computer-based testing (CBT).

But for many, the testing method has still not moved on from the 2,000-year-old pen-and-paper approach. Across India we still see large lecture halls with exam candidates scribbling onto their exam papers. However, over the last quarter of a century or so, technology has begun to  transform how exams are being delivered.

For some organisations, globalisation has created a need for greater outreach for their assessments. Offering CBT means that these organisations can deliver global assessments without the administrative hassle – and the potential fraud risk – of physically delivering hard-copy examination papers back and forth across international borders.

Use of technology can transform all aspects of the assessment process from registering for an exam to receiving results. This can also provide administrative efficiency in a number of ways as well as increased test security.

Technology has modernised the way busy professionals can book and schedule an exam –  eliminating or reducing the paperwork involved, and also saving time and money. Instead of having to travel to an exam hall in a distant city centre, they can simply schedule a test at a local test centre on a date and time of their choosing.

The test is administered to the test-taker and their responses are recorded electronically. Depending upon the type of CBT used, each test taker’s examination is either downloaded to a local server ahead of their exam appointment or delivered to each test taker online while the local desktop is in communication with a central server. Either way, reputable CBT vendors have encryption capabilities in their test delivery software so that the exam files are held in a secure state at all times except until the exam begins.

For high-stakes exams – those that have important consequences for the test taker, such as higher education admissions, professional qualifications or medical exams – test security is an important concern. Both downloadable and online computer-based tests can be administered at test centres with trained invigilators or proctors. In addition to human invigilation, test takers can also be monitored through closed-circuit television (CCTV) to provide an additional deterrent to cheating. Typically, test takers are required to put any electronic devices in a locker prior to sitting the exam, to reduce the likelihood of cheating.

Computer-based examinations can also be offered continually throughout the year or in test windows of variable durations determined by the needs of the assessment programme. So for example, a university admissions test could be offered in a four-month window which can be selected to coincide with the selection process. This is convenient for the student and test security doesn’t have to suffer. Using special educational measurement techniques – known as psychometrics in the industry – multiple versions of an exam can be created so that they are equivalent in terms of content, meaning that test takers are not advantaged or disadvantaged by the particular version of the exam that they sat. This involves the testing organisation having a large bank of randomised but equally difficult questions to choose from.

Computer-based tests can also be offered in unproctored or even online-proctored environments. Unproctored internet-based assessments are mostly appropriate for practice exams, allowing test takers to gain familiarity with CBT or to do a self-assessment to gauge readiness before they take the real exam in a secure test centre.

Online proctoring uses human invigilators located in a different location from the test taker. The invigilator observes the test taker in real-time through the use of a webcam. The remote invigilator performs the same functions as an in-person invigilator would, including checking the test takers’ credentials to make certain the right person is testing. The invigilator also asks the candidate to provide information about the testing environment before unlocking the exam and making it available for the test taker to sit.

All of these CBT exam delivery options mean that access, flexibility, and test security can be balanced to meet an assessment programme’s particular needs – because what is right for one organisation or test taker may not be an appropriate solution for others.

The end result of taking any professional examination is being able to make decisions regarding a test taker’s abilities. Does the test taker have the minimum level of competency required to practise a profession? Has the test taker met educational standards to be awarded a qualification? Here, technology can play a role in receiving and communicating test results.

Certain types of test questions can be automatically scored by the testing technology when a computer-based test is administered. Objective test questions, such as multiple choice, are conducive to automated scoring, but it is possible for other types of questions, even those with constructed responses, to be computer marked. Automatic marking means that test takers can receive their exam results sooner. That’s an important advantage when an individual has to wait for an exam result before applying for a university course or a job.

Automated tools can assist individuals and their employers with keeping track of the professional qualifications process. Online portals – and now digital badges as well – allow employers to verify that an applicant or employee has indeed passed a professional qualifications exam, such as an IT certification.

Computer-based testing is becoming the preferred method for delivering large-scale assessments around the world, but there is a wide variety in how technology is used by these organisations to gain better assessment and greater outreach within their assessment programmes.

The end result for Indian business and test-taking professionals is what matters ultimately: saving time and money while improving assessment efficiency, validity and fairness.

1 comment:

  1. What a great article! The same needs to be done in Australia as well. With internet outages becoming one of the biggest threats as more people are watching TV content on demand, there should be a thorough approach used as in your article. Recently, the entire country couldn't watch the last season of Game of Thrones due to an internet outage and this might happen again.


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