Lecturer in Physical Science, Arafa Institute for Teacher Education
Computer-assisted testing is an assessment model in which candidates or test takers answer questions or complete exercises that are part of a computer program. In many cases, computer tests also include automatic scoring. This occurs when there are a finite number of correct answers, such as in multiple choice testing models. When short answer and essay questions are included in computer-assisted testing, a grader normally reads answers and enters grades into a database. Computer-assisted testing is used for standardized tests, for psychological and skill assessment, in classrooms, and may even be used by individuals who wish to test themselves.
Proponents of computer-assisted testing believe that it makes recording scores much easier for scorers and instructors. Individuals who take these exams often can receive their scores immediately. Some critics, however, believe that people with different ways of learning and processing information may find computer testing difficult.
Many standardized tests have adopted computer-assisted testing models. An example of a standardized test is the Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®), which many students in the United States take prior to applying to graduate programs. Students who take the GRE® normally meet at a designated testing center, where they sit for the exam at computer workstations. Their scores are recorded automatically, though written portions are assessed by trained scorers.
There is a variety of products to support computer-assisted testing. An instructor creates questions, groups questions into topics and tests and assigns them to students. Students use a web browser to take the test and then it is automatically graded. The form of the questions is limited, they can be, for example, true/false, multiple choice, or fill in the blank. Essay questions are possible, but can't be automatically graded. Questions can include audio and video components. For example, the test for an English class could play an audio clip and then use multiple choice questions to gauge a student's comprehension.
Computer-assisted testing is especially useful when you:
· Need to include audio or video content as part of a question
· Need test results quickly
· Need tests graded automatically
· Have many tests or quizzes to give
· Have some students off-campus
· Need to change questions often
Computer-assisted testing can require a large up-front investment. Every single question has to be entered. Questions must be grouped into tests. Each student must be entered. Tests must be scheduled and students assigned. Once a test has been defined, it can be easily used repeatedly, year after year.
All the information entered by the instructor is done via a web based interface or a custom application. Typically the data is stored remotely in a database where it is automatically backed up. To take a test, students go to a web site or follow a link to a web page. Then, they log in and take the test.
General advantages of CAT systems over traditional paper-and-pencil testing (PPT) have been demonstrated in several comparative works and include: consistency and reliability; faster and more controlled test revision process with shorter response time; faster decision-making as the result of immediate scoring and reporting; unbiased test administration and scoring; increased candidate acceptance and satisfaction; evolutionary step toward future testing methodologies.