Interview: Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Vice President, Global Business at Pearson VUE

"We see an upward trend in India where high-stakes test owners are increasingly turning to computer-based testing because of all the benefits it offers, not just for themselves but also the exam candidates. In the last year we saw a tipping point where we signed a large number of new agreements, developing and launching major CBT programmes across India, and the trend is set to continue." Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Vice President, Global Business at Pearson VUE 



In an exclusive email interaction with WorldHRDiary.com, Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Vice President, Global Business at Pearson VUE shares his views on digital learning trends, and assessment standards.

Excerpts:

Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Vice President,
Global Business at Pearson VUE 
WHRD: What are some of the new ‘Digital learning’ trends that you have come across in the recent past?

Gary Gates: India is now in a truly digital era where computers are present in aspects of everyone’s lives and no modern workplace is complete without one. So it is natural that a tech-savvy generation of professionals would expect to be trained and assessed via computers as well.

We, as a provider of computer-based testing, are witnessing changes in terms of the way learning is both consumed and assessed thanks to the availability of devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.

So, just as professionals across all sectors are gaining knowledge from access to technology, the 2,000-year-old method of paper-and-pencil testing is gradually being replaced by more modern methods such as computer-based testing.

WHRD: How do you see India’s assessment standards at present?

Gary Gates: With technology playing a vital role in providing access to learning, India is on a path towards ever higher standards of assessment.

Having said that, competition for both jobs and entrance to universities is fierce in India which puts those sitting high-stakes exams under pressure to succeed. This means that for some it can be tempting to cheat.

We have seen examples in the media of people being investigated and arrested due to cheating in exams. Over 200 people with medical degrees across India were involved in a massive test-rigging scam only this year, for example.

The need of the hour is computer-based testing (CBT), which can deter these types of cheating. In pencil-and-paper testing, you have physical exam papers which can going missing, which is a great threat to exam integrity.

But with computer-based testing, there are no hard copies of the test papers being sent to test centres. The test content is transmitted through electronic means and the data is encrypted. So this minimises the risk of any such fraud.

Computer based testing is now being taken seriously in India. The last 12 months, we have seen great success with Shiv Nadar University, Data & Security Council of India and others in promoting testing standards.

WHRD: What is your suggestion for improving India’s exam standards through global best practices?

Gary Gates: Anything that can be done to make entrance exams more fair, effective and efficient will be a good thing. It will be beneficial to both colleges, who gain the finest students and employers, who can select graduates with the best skill sets.

It will also help nervous students sitting their entrance exam, knowing that it will give them the best chance of showcasing their abilities and earning a place at university.

Current thinking on how to develop entrance exams is to find ways of making them fairer to people of all different social and educational backgrounds.

For example, we deliver the LSAT—India exam. The test is background-neutral, focusing on the core abilities demanded of a successful law student, such as critical reasoning and reading skills.

This means that entrance test candidates are in a good position to succeed based on their skills, giving everyone a fair chance of success.

Also, it means that colleges do not need to independently analyse candidates’ critical reasoning and reading skills since the test results provide them with that information.

WHRD: How do you see India's assessment standards in 5 years from now?

Gary Gates: We see an upward trend in India where high-stakes test owners are increasingly turning to computer-based testing because of all the benefits it offers, not just for themselves but also the exam candidates. In the last year we saw a tipping point where we signed a large number of new agreements, developing and launching major CBT programmes across India, and the trend is set to continue.

Some of our recent collaboration include- Lovely Professional University, Amity University, Shiv Nadar University, Data Security Council of India by NASSCOM, OP Jindal Global University, Infosys, NMAT by GMAC, Law School Admission Test —India (LSAT—India), HCL, Microsoft India, NICR (NCDEX).

We also deliver the NMAT by GMAC, LSAT-India and the Microsoft Office Specialist exams in India, among others.

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