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From primary, secondary, and tertiary education to vocational certification, all forms of education and training require optimized and measurable assessments to measure the outcomes of knowledge imparted to learners. Assessments have long been employed for the evaluation process. Well-designed assessments focus on targeted areas with utmost accuracy and encourage learners to perform better. Before the digital era, evaluators used traditional approach-based tests. However, with the internet and technology seeping into different aspects of life and computing gadgets becoming a necessity, can assessments be left behind?
Not at all! That is why the age of new, innovative computer-assisted assessments has dawned. Unlike its predecessor (pen-and-paper testing), a computer-based test is not a resource-intensive evaluation. On the contrary, it is technologically advanced and has eliminated the inconvenience that incurs due to rudimentary testing approaches. For example, the requirement for examination halls, seating configurations, printed papers, travel and other logistical hassles were evident. Conducting assessments online via digital tools is beneficial for invigilators and students as they are now highly receptive to digital technologies.
This blog will detail the intricacies of computer-based assessments and how these support educational institutions that are contemplating shifting to computer-based testing.
The need for conducting computer-based examinations has rightly increased, given the post-pandemic challenges. The global pandemic has underlined the challenges and vulnerabilities the education sector is facing. There are serious concerns about building a resolute framework to keep academia immune to such disruptions. Well, CBT provides a scaffold by minimizing the administrative burden of conducting examinations on academia, reducing the time and effort that would otherwise be consumed on the laborious process of setting up examination centers, printing and distributing exam papers, and other overheads.
In computer-based testing (CBT), computer technology is employed, which means the candidates use computers to answer questions presented on the monitor. The test-taker submits the answer using a keyboard or a mouse. The computer which the test taker is using can be referred to as a client computer. In contrast, the computer used for delivering the exam while being connected on an intranet/internet is referred to as a server computer. Therefore, computer-based exams take place in a client-server environment.
The appeal of online CBT lies in its functionality to streamline how educational assessments, certifications, or pre-employment tests are conducted in multiple ways. From its inception in the 1970s, to now when computers have assumed a ubiquitous status, it has become the ideal successor to paper-and-pencil tests. Interestingly, the term “online exam” and “computer-based exam” are often used interchangeably; however, there is a subtle difference between these two.
An online exam may be perceived as a subsection of the CBT because, as the name suggests, the computer-based test is too comprehensive not to include online exams in its ambit. While the term online exam can be used for any examination conducted over the internet, the computer-based test is generically used for any test that is given and taken using computers, without depending on the internet.
To put it into perspective, a CBT may or may not be connected to a server on the intranet/internet and may act as standalone testing. Once the exam is over, the result can be transferred online to a web server or locally stored on the computer’s hard disk.
Computer-based testing can be used most effectively for several academic purposes, certifications tests, or during pre-employment screening processes that have examinations (assessments) as one of the decisive rounds to screen out applicants. Moreover, for corporates, such tests can enable management to develop pathways for employees’ career progressions. Learning and development departments can also leverage online CBTs to identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses and design appropriate training programs for holistic workforce development.
Computer-based tests have various advantages over traditional examination methods. From conducting exams to delivering reports, computer-based exams have made the examination process smoother than ever. Besides, computer-based tests offer multiple benefits to candidates and administrators in administering, grading and scaling up the process.
Let us take a closer look at the benefits that CBTs entail:
Computer-based tests can be conducted all year round. Students can take tests at a time and place of their choosing. They do not need to travel to a particular physical location to write an exam, enabling candidates from far-off areas to give their test. The test window usually extends between 1-3 weeks, allowing aspirants to choose a convenient slot.
Computer adaptive tests are a form of CBTs whose difficulty level adjusts, based on the respondent's answers, depending on the examinee’s ability and knowledge. For example, if the test-taker answers a question correctly, the next problem will be a tad difficult. Computer adaptive testing is yet another milestone of the assessment technology, providing an effective means to assess students' abilities more precisely.
There are various security features inherent in computer-based testing to ensure that the test integrity is maintained. In addition, online proctoring and various available security features make CBT a highly secure mode of assessment.
When social distancing and restricted traveling are globally accepted norms in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, conducting online exams from any corner of the world has given hope to universities. Unlike the olden examination approach, students can appear for an online computer-based exam from a place of their choosing and select an exam slot as per their convenience.
Since the computer-based examination can be conveniently hosted on a robust CBT exam platform, it can be conducted simultaneously for multiple candidates irrespective of their locations. Additionally, a stellar computer-based exam software can support over 100,000 proctored tests and can be scaled further without significant investments.
This feature of computer-based tests eliminates the scope of human error and the hassle of allotting evaluation duties to teachers. In addition, multiple-choice questions can be auto-graded easily, helping institutions to churn out real-time reports. It also saves considerable time in evaluating a large number of answer sheets.
Gamification can reveal underlying aspects of students’ problem-solving skills and help instructors measure their higher-order thinking skills. By having students undertake computer-based tests that focus on digital learning games and evaluate their rationale behind making specific decisions, online program instructors can personalize and tailor-make future learning experiences for each student.
A computer-based test can also accommodate the needs of differently-abled people by enabling them to take up assessments more conveniently instead of a pen-and-paper test. Moreover, the integration of features such as Braille keyboards, magnification tools, screen readers, voice-to-text, and text-to-voice applications has lent significant convenience to designing and deploying exams for specially-abled candidates.
The time consumed in creating question papers, driving registration, arranging supplies and evaluation can be avoided with online CBTs as they automate the entire process. Additionally, resource consumption is significantly lower. Case in point: stationery, invigilators or transport facilities.
While computer-based tests have multiple applications, we have listed below some of the key areas where these tests are becoming increasingly popular:
Computer-based exams have gained steady ground in the education sector, with the last two decades witnessing the most profound shift in how assessments are given and taken. One reason is that computer testing continues to offer numerous benefits when compared to pen-and-paper tests. Some of its advantages are:
Computer-based assessments are becoming a crucial part of the education system. Earlier, the arduous and time-consuming process of preparing tests was overwhelming for teachers because they needed to ensure fairness and consistency in every exam for each class. Besides, even if the teacher did a reasonable job of preparing a satisfactory exam, it was challenging to keep students from indulging in cheating practices, which was detrimental to the integrity of exams. However, computer-based exams have weeded out all these hassles associated with the traditional processes, streamlining examination processes.
The computer-based testing methodology aims to catalyze the exam processes and tackle the challenges concerning the facilitation of examination, result report generation, and end-to-end process management. The use of CBT in administering tests will negate the possibility of human errors that are evident during conducting, marking, and scoring an exam. Furthermore, remote proctoring technologies’ Intergrations can curb cheating instances.
Two significant ways in which computer-based tests can be used as a learning assessment tool are:
Integration within the e-learning modules: Computer-based assessments can be embedded within the e-learning modules to consolidate all the components of learning activities in one place. For example, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) student might watch a video that includes comprehension questions embedded within it. Or, a learner may complete the whole e-learning module that ends with a final exam.
Standalone CBTs: This type of test is commonly used in all kinds of learning environments, including in-person courses. An administrator can easily create tests and quizzes using a web-based platform to measure student learning outcomes. Computer-based exams have various applications, from online quizzes to final exams. They not only help instructors assess the effectiveness of their teaching but also boost student engagement in the classroom.
Computer-based tests also double up as credentialing tests to assess whether candidates are knowledgeable enough in a specific occupational area to be deemed ”competent to practice” in that domain. So, these tests are indispensable tools for conducting online certification for professionals.
While many computer-based examinations for today’s most demanded skills exist, test-takers can only earn certification in their respective domains if they meet the minimum score requirement.
A certificate is a credential awarded to an individual after completing an educational or training course, implying that the learner has acquired new skills, competencies and proficiency. The attainment of the learning outcomes is measured using computer-based tests that have predetermined standards for certification success.
Let us delve deeper into the world of certifications to accentuate its different facets:
Certification is an assessment, audit or review of a person, organization or object under consideration. There are myriads of certifications in our world today. There are certifications for persons, products and businesses. There are certifications for greenhouse gases as well. We can broadly classify certifications into three categories:
There are two types of certifications in general, namely:
Organizations use internal certifications to impart hands-on knowledge to the employees in technologies, software, or the latest methodologies. These certifications are also used for upskilling employees. Usually, these certifications are intended for the workforce within the company and are not applicable outside the organization. Such certification programs are deemed crucial for an organization’s learning and development strategy.
External certification agencies provide external certifications. Such bodies provide accreditations in a specific industry for a particular domain. There are various kinds of external certifications; some of these are listed below:
If someone asks you about your health and you reply, saying,” I did a hundred pushups.” It would be an ambiguous response. Not because doing pushups is a waste, but because it expresses very little about your health status. Similarly, when someone asks you about your education, you respond,” I graduated in 1998 in Arts.” It is equally ambiguous. Not because your college education does not matter, but because it provides minimal information about your experience and knowledge today. For many years, the degree played a pivotal part in every individual’s professional journey. Professionals used to climb the corporate ladder and retire after a long, satisfying stint at the same company.
However, the world is not the same anymore. Things have changed substantially and drastically. The world of work is changing, skills and jobs are becoming obsolete much faster than one can imagine. Therefore, professionals must consistently upgrade their skill sets while considering future uncertainties to stay abreast with the changes. Most importantly, they need a common language of skills that stays unchanged across industries. Skills certification is the language that can provide an expression to validate those skills. It is not just about labeling someone as ”skilled,” but it also provides a level playing field in which everyone can communicate their skills to the world, regardless of age, race, or gender.
Skills certifications can be categorized into various segments, as listed below:
Software certifications, also known as IT certifications, are known worldwide as the standard for ascertaining the credibility of information technology professionals. Such certifications formally recognize an individual's proficiency level in the programming domain. The recipient is certified as having skills and knowledge for a particular software discipline. The holders of such certificates are expected to possess a strong understanding of their specific software discipline. The IT certification, often followed by a computer-based test, is awarded after an individual has demonstrated the requisite skills, knowledge and abilities in his/her respective domain. E.g., Oracle certification, Certified Data Professional (CDP), Microsoft certification, etc.
Professional finance certifications are indispensable tools if someone considers a career in this domain or is already working in this space. These certifications can tremendously boost an individual's skills, knowledge, professional outlook, earning power, reputation, and much more. There are several available certifications for individuals to choose from, depending on the unique requirements of professionals. These certifications are available across various domains, such as investments, financial planning, technical analysis, corporate finance, risk management and quantitative finance, etc.
Healthcare is a domain wherein an individual must fulfill all educational requirements before considering professional certifications. Once they satisfy all eligibility and essential requirements, they can select a healthcare certification program that aligns with their desired career goals. However, one should plan and research beforehand concerning the career path of their interest before pursuing the certification journey. Healthcare certifications validate that a certified person is qualified to perform the specified duties required for a specific position. Such certifications enable aspirants to get into the healthcare industry or transition from a different industry.One such example of healthcare certifications is a Certification in Nursing (Nursing Certification): The more specialized the nurses are, the better equipped they are to treat their patients with utmost care and concern. With nursing certifications comes the validation of a person's knowledge and competencies. That is why healthcare facilities also lay great emphasis on certificates when it comes to recruiting nurses.
Multilingualism has never been more essential a skill, considering today's interconnected world. Workplaces have become more diverse, with employees from diverse cultural/ethnic backgrounds working in unison to attain organizational objectives. In this globally connected world, effective communication skills are crucial for students to reach their true north. Language certification certifies that an individual is well-equipped to meet the demanding standards of a career in linguistics. The certification exam provides a means to understand their knowledge, abilities and preparedness in a particular language.
Workplace safety certifications
Managing health and safety in the workplace is a legal necessity and a moral obligation. That is why safety certifications are well-established standards that organizations can use to structure their health and safety management framework. In addition, such certifications can enable organizations to convey to their regulators, employees, and clients/customers that health and safety are at the forefront of their business operations. For example, Organizations in the United States can put a premium on workplace safety by conducting safety certification programs approved by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). And what better way to conduct certifications than to leverage computer-based exams in the process.
Government certifications are accredited by the government body hosting a certification program to the targeted audience. Such programs enable candidates to enroll in special training courses and receive certificates after completing the course. These programs aim to upskill people, imparting knowledge and skill to them. Following such training, candidates will take the test to obtain a certificate in their respective domains.
To ensure that the certification programs maintain the highest degree of integrity and quality, certification providers must move from pen-and-paper-based testing to computer-based testing (CBT). The move to CBT will also make the test-taking experience for candidates better than ever.
All the methods involved in a paper-based test are initialized digitally via computer-based examination systems, whether for student learning evaluation or candidate assessment during exams. The online CBT exam system can register and organize a vast candidate pool through its scalable platform. The system enables the live monitoring of examinees’ screens from the farthest locations through remote proctoring solutions. Furthermore, the system allows quick access to test results in real-time with data analytics.
Conducting online examinations is not as tedious as it seems. It is pretty easy to run a web-based computerized exam on an online computer-based examination platform. It is the user-friendliness of an online CBT platform that makes it a holistic online exam solution provider. The computer-based evaluation process consists of the following steps:
Step 1: Set-up the exam
The first step is to upload lots of questions. A robust online examination software allows you to upload multiple types of problems. It also allows for integration with a learning management system (LMS).
Step 2: Invite test-takers
Exam authorities then upload bulk student data, thereby saving on significant time spent gathering and updating candidates’ details. Invitation emails are sent to students, post which they can select a suitable exam slot.
Step 3: Authorize and proctor tests
ID-based authentication, AI-based live proctoring, screen recording, and browsing tolerance are some features that eliminate impersonation and malpractices, thus making the results as credible as traditional pen-and-paper tests.
Step 4: Real-time results
A computer-based assessment software provides real-time results that can be customized and shared in PDF or HTML format.
Step 5: Group-level analytics
In addition to individual reports, thorough data analysis provides valuable group-level insights that can be used in the future.
Founded in 1973, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) is an acclaimed public business school (B-school). The institute offers a comprehensive range of post-graduate, doctoral and executive programs. Besides its notable academic courses, the institute facilitates research, provides consulting services, conducts seminars, educational conferences, and publishes insightful journals.
IIMB needed a dynamic end-to-end examination platform that was easily accessible and location-agnostic for learners and examiners. In addition, the B-school wanted a platform that would support multiple question types and exam formats without any operational hassles.
Preserve the academic integrity
Since the exams were online and attempted remotely by candidates, the B-school’s requirement was a robust anti-cheating mechanism, with an online invigilation mechanism to ensure candidates attempting the test could not resort to any illicit means.
After careful consideration, IIMB was recommended a suite of Mercer | Mettl’s online technologies:
Both these value propositions were aligned with IIMB’s existing requirements and its future needs to enable blended learning.
We have listed the answers to the most typical concerns in the FAQ section:
Online CBT exams are better than traditional exams for these reasons: 1) While the paper-based test involves a long, tedious process of conducting exams and evaluating results, the computer-based test delivers fast, reliable and error-free assessment solutions., 2) Limited resources are needed in web-based exams as compared to traditional tests. Participants can quickly appear for the test through the internet, so it does not require a dedicated faculty and staff., 3) A dedicated exam center, adequate faculty and stationery, seating arrangements, etc., are prerequisites for conducting a pen-paper test., 4) Computer testing enables educators to conduct grading for online tests in a much easier way. In contrast, the evaluation process in a traditional exam system is time-consuming and prone to error., 5) In computer-based tests, the recruiter can send emails regarding the assessment to millions of registered candidates instantly. In addition, the web-based exam is a flexible and secure medium, for it can provide each student with a set of random questions on the same exam pattern to prevent cheating in the exams., 6) Computer-based tests are easily accessible by students with disabilities, whereas specially-abled students have limited access to conventional education and assessments., 7) Computer-based exams allow test-creators to enrich the content by adding videos, images, audio clips, PDFs, etc. In addition, the use of visual elements adds interactivity to the learning experience of visual learners., 8) Online CBT exams come integrated with built-in functions to curb cheating, such as browser lockdown, key disabling features, proctoring plug-ins, and prevent students from indulging in any unfair means. However, in the pen-and-paper test, the chances are high that students could indulge in cheating without any difficulty.
Through online exam proctoring: computer testing becomes highly effective with the inclusion of remote proctoring. The test taker is monitored via a webcam, mic and access to the candidate’s screen during the test.
Usually, test-takers can cheat when taking web-based exams by browsing through sites for answers while keeping the exam open on the main tab. They typically do this by copy-pasting the content into their browser to seek solutions to the problems. Another way participants indulge in cheating is with text messages. They can reach out to other candidates either by sharing the test or asking them for the solutions. They can even send screenshots/photos of the test using smartphone cameras. In light of the situation, Mercer | Mettl’s suite of remote proctoring technologies will ensure cheating-free exams.
To conduct a secure exam, start by selecting the type of computer-based exam you want to distribute, mapping the examinees who’ll sit for the exam, and sending out email links with exam details to the candidates. The examinees can click on the email link or use login credentials for taking the exam online.
This process is referred to as web proctoring, wherein the test taker is precisely monitored using a webcam, access to the person’s screen during the test, and their mic. Web proctoring is of three types: Recorded proctoring, live online exam proctoring and automated proctoring.
Students new to computer testing may experience few difficulties in taking computer-based tests. However, if you are not familiar with web-based exams, you should understand the necessary steps before entering the CBT exam.Listed below are the steps for attempting computer testing:1) Click on the “exam’’ icon to start your assessment., 2) After clicking it, a test window will open. The opening page will ask you to enter such details as a username and passcode for the exam. The exam board has already given you this information. Fill up every required space with the information that you are asked about. Then, click on the tab ‘’NEXT’’ to proceed further with the exam., 3) The next page will be opened. This page will include test duration, types of questions and things to remember before attempting the questions., 4) You will find a call-to-action button that says “START EXAM”. Clicking on it will open a new page that includes the initial questions of your test. As you move up through the pages, you will notice questions in a proper sequence., 5) There will be a timer bar at the top of the test window indicating the remaining time for the exam., 6) Each question will require respondents to choose one option from multiple choices, or there will be ample space for writing explanatory answers in case of subjective questions., 7) There is a ‘’SUBMIT’’ button at the end of each question. After answering the questions, click on this button to submit your responses. If you do not submit your responses, you will not be given marks for these answers., 8) You can use the NEXT PAGE” and “PREVIOUS PAGE” arrows for moving to the next and previous pages. There can also be a straight bar that lists all the page numbers for you to access a specific page by clicking it., 9) It depends on the test creator, whether there will be one question per page or more. The point is you should not invest the time on a question that you do not know the answer to; leave that and get on to the next one. You must first attempt all the easier questions and address the complex problems at the end of the test if time allows., 10) It may be the case that you have reached the last page of the online test but skipped a few questions. The asterisk (*), a star-shaped symbol, denotes the number of questions that have not been attempted on some pages. You can go back to those pages to try these questions., 11) At the bottom of the last page of the exam, there will be a “FINISH” button. Click on the tab to finish the assessment after completing all the questions. In some exams, results come out as soon as you hit the finish button. But in some cases, your scores may also be sent via email or postal address.
Originally published August 13 2020, Updated October 4 2021
Abhilash works with the Content Marketing team of Mercer|Mettl. He has been contributing his bit to the world of online business for some years now. Abhilash is experienced in content marketing, along with SEO. He’s fond of writing useful posts, helping people, traveling, and savoring delicacies.
Online assessments, also known as digital or virtual assessments, are computer-based exams. Online assessments use information technology to empower test-takers to take assessments from anywhere, anytime. Online assessments are widely used by educational institutions and corporations.